Pennsylvania’s Wolf Taps Pedro Rivera to Lead Schools

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has announced his choice to lead the Department of Education, naming Pedro Rivera, the superintendent of the Lancaster schools.

“Pedro Rivera is nationally recognized for his efforts to improve urban education, and he will work with me to build a strong public education system and get Pennsylvania back on track,” Wolf said in a release Monday.

Rivera, who has held the position of superintendent for Lancaster schools since 2008, was honored by the White House last September as one of 10 Hispanics leading the way in the field of education.

Since he became superintendent, the district, which currently has around 11,500 students, 17% of whom are learning English, has increased its graduation rate as well as its reading proficiency scores, reports Karen Langley for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  In addition, the district has increased its fund balance from $4 million to $9 million.

The recent campaign saw education funding receive a lot of attention, with Democrats and education advocates laying the blame for schools not receiving enough money after the federal stimulus ran out on Governor Tom Corbett.

After accepting the position, Rivera said “what’s most exciting about this opportunity” was that Wolf has made it clear that education funding is his priority.

Rivera said he plans to give resources back to schools, paying close attention to those with low-income populations, as well as offer opportunities for early childhood learning, college life, and the careers that lay ahead of students in the state.

“As leaders, we create conditions in which school districts work,” he said. “As secretary of education, I look forward to creating conditions in which superintendents and school boards and school leaders can be successful in serving both their children and their communities.”

Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, agrees with the nomination.

“Pedro Rivera is an excellent choice,” he said. “His experience as superintendent of the School District of Lancaster is very significant, and also his advocacy for urban school districts is particularly important.”

Rivera will coming into the role during a time of uncertainty in the state, as districts continue to try to find ways to meet increasing pension requirements and the state introduces new curriculum standards.

The nomination still needs to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Prior to his position as superintendent, Rivera spent 13 years working in the Philadelphia public schools, as assistant principal, principal, classroom teacher and human resources director.