MEET THE SLATE
PPS School Board, District 1
Being an educator was not originally Grace Higginbotham’s career plan. However, after reading an article on the Black/White achievement gap, she felt compelled to alter her path and pursue education not only as a major, but as her life’s work.
Grace obtained her Education degree at Chatham University, with a minor in Psychology, and went on to get certified to teach in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As she began her teaching experience, she quickly saw that there was not only a great need for good teachers, but also how imperative it was to have exceptional Black teachers. Her overarching goal became to not only curate the best educational experiences for the students, but to also build an ecosystem of trust, resources, balance, hard work, passion, safety, and most importantly data, to be able to measure progress.
Even though it was not a part of her original plan, Grace discovered that she truly loved teaching and her students. She quickly learned that cultivating trust with them was paramount because without the trust of the students, it is very difficult to effectively teach them. Through teaching, Grace thoroughly enjoyed providing the students and parents with representation and support. She taught the children to expect and demand excellence of themselves.
After years of teaching, as well as learning from her students, Grace began to consider additional ways that she could make larger, systemic changes. She knew that by teaching she could only impact the classroom in which she was standing, but by widely sharing her approach and philosophy, she could truly move the needle. Therefore, with much introspection, she decided to quit teaching and launch her own consulting company, focusing on cultural competency training for teachers and small businesses. That lane change has now led her to embark on another mission where she feels that she can be a true force for positive change and that is running for school board.
It is with high hopes, that Grace will lend her skills and iron fist, with a satin glove approach, to continuing to educate the district in which she lives, provide a platform for responsible student voice, engage in strategic planning with the teachers that serve in the district, and continued network and build relationships with grassroots organizations to empower the community.
Grace Higginbotham’s approachable, yet straight shooter persona will ensure that she will not only expect and demand excellence, but she will provide it as well.
PPS School Board, District 3
Native Pittsburgher, born and raised on the historic Lower Hill District, Mr. Udin has decades of leadership and activism in civil and human rights. In 2002, Mr. Udin and Rev. Johnnie Monroe founded the Hill District Education Council (HDEC). He hopes to help create a major transformation of education, to provide high quality education for all public-school students, but most especially for Black and poor students who compose most of the students in District 3. Mr. Udin resides in the Hill District with his wife, Jacqueline.
PPS School Board, District 5
Tracey grew up in Pittsburgh and as a child attended Beltzhoover Elementary School. She knew early on that she wanted to work in education and after college, Tracey taught high school English in Frederick, Maryland. Her frustration with the inequity that she witnessed led her to pursue degrees in Public Administration and Educational Policy Studies from the University of Virginia. Tracey’s career has taken her away from the classroom, but her work has always focused on children’s well-being and high-quality, equitable, education. Currently, she serves on the boards of A+ Schools, City Charter High School, Connecting Champions, and Women for a Healthy Environment.
PPS School Board, District 7
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Khamil is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and advocate for the underserved. In her professional career, she is founder of Cocoapreneur Pgh, a Black business consultancy, and co-founder of Greenwood Week Pittsburgh, a non-profit formed to guide entrepreneurs through the obstacles of entrepreneurship. She works every day to help small business owners access resources and become major contributors in the growth of their communities. Due to her commitment to economic growth for everyday people, she sits on the boards of The Hill District Federal Credit Union and Catapult Pittsburgh (formerly Circles Greater Pittsburgh). Khamil is also a 2020 Pittsburgh 40 Under 40 recipient.
Most important to Khamil are the personal relationships she has fostered. She is mother to Kai and Edward IV and fiance to Edward III. Since she was a child, she has been labeled as a helper, and her empathetic nature pushes her to advocate for those who are not able to do so for themselves.
Khamil is running for school board for her children and all of the children who must be educated and enriched by Pittsburgh Public Schools. As a parent of a first grader, she is deeply invested in the direction that the district takes. Recent years have seen a decline in the quality of education being provided to students of PPS and instead of waiting for others to enact the necessary changes for her, she'd prefer to take a more active role in how that happens. Our children are more than capable of great things but are not being presented with all of the possibilities. She sees a PPS where the students, families, faculty, board, and administrators are all equally invested and equally prepared to serve our children. Her priorities as a school board member would include: improved communication, more strategic collaborations, equipping and empowering families, and servant leadership.
PPS School Board, District 9
Eugene Walker is a graduate of Pittsburgh’s Peabody High School and received his bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Gene has a professional background in sales, management, finance, marketing, and nonprofit management. Gene returned to Pittsburgh in 2009 to work alongside the team at the Pittsburgh Promise in various capacities. In his role as Program Manager Gene was responsible for the creation of numerous programs including: what is now the district’s We Promise program focusing on African American male mentoring, The Promise college tours, and The Promise ambassador program. In February 2015, Gene became the first Director of Workforce Development at The Promise. Gene left The Promise in 2018 to launch a new nonprofit, Mission C. The goal of Mission C was to provide financial education and support for families facing eviction. Through partnerships with local property managers, Gene and Mission C set out to help individuals and families avoid eviction through comprehensive financial education. In 2019 ,Gene left Mission C to begin his work supporting adults with intellectual and physical disabilities with Gene Cook Supports Inc. In early 2019, Gene became an Accredited Financial Counselor. In this role he provides affordable personal finance management counseling to individuals and families. Gene, along with his wife Jenny, have two children, a recent graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools and a current senior in the district.
As a school board member, Gene would continue to help the young people of Pittsburgh achieve their dreams. His top three priorities for the district would include: creating budget accountability and prioritization, ensuring equitable access to technology and resources (e.g. equipment, internet, and AP/CAS classes), and increasing and retaining the diversity of the teaching staff, including prioritizing local talent.