Pittsburgh Controller Heisler Blasts Alma Mater Cumberland Valley School Board

Controller Rachael Heisler City of Pittsburgh.

In a letter to the School Board of Cumberland Valley School District, Pittsburgh City Controller Rachael Heisler blasted the board’s recent decision to uninvite actor Maulik Pancholy because of his “lifestyle”. Heisler attended Cumberland Valley High School.

Pancholy, who is gay, was originally slated to give an anti-bullying presentation at Mountain View Middle School. “He is proud of his lifestyle, and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students, at any age,” School Board Member Bud Shaffner said of Pancholy. A special public meeting of the school board is slated for Wednesday at 5:00 PM.

Dear Cumberland Valley School District School Board,

I am writing to you today as a fellow public official; in 2023, I was elected Controller in the City of Pittsburgh. I have used my platform to advocate for responsible local government and acceptance for every community, including speaking out against racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. More importantly, I am a graduate of Cumberland Valley High School. My family has a long history with the district; in addition to my brother, dad, aunt, uncles, and cousins also being graduates, my mom spent more than 37 years as a teacher at CV and still works almost daily as a substitute.

I am saddened beyond words at this body’s decision to cancel the assembly program featuring Maulik Pancholy, a well-regarded anti-bullying commentator. Your choice does not reflect the rich, inclusive, and well-rounded experience I had at Cumberland Valley. Anti bullying efforts create a safer and healthier learning environment for the students and families you serve, and my heart aches for those who had hoped such a dialogue would soften their educational experience. Most irresponsibly, the rhetoric from this board further divides people in an already heated political environment and demonstrates a total lack of moral leadership.

I want to share, too, my particular disappointment in Mr. Bud Shaffner, whom I have known for 25 years. His remarks show a lack of awareness of the ever-diverse population within the district. Citing Mr. Pancholy’s “lifestyle,” Mr. Shaffner ignores core values of the Cumberland Valley community and further marginalizes students, faculty, and families who already feel excluded, whether they be black/brown, LGBTQIA+, or immigrants.

It’s my hope that this board reverses its short-sighted decision and invites Mr. Pancholy back to Mountain View Middle School. Anything short is inadequate and will further erode the trust the community has in the school board.

Rachael Heisler
Controller, City of Pittsburgh