This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Longtime Philadelphia teacher and administrator Pedro Rivera, who is now the Lancaster superintendent, is the co-chair of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s transition committee for education.
Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent 13 years in the Philadelphia system, and has led Lancaster schools since 2008. He said in a Thursday interview that the committee is working on finding the people who can best engineer a "transformation" of the Department of Education and carry out Wolf’s education priorities.
Rivera’s name has surfaced in the rumor mill speculation on who might be the education secretary under the new governor. He said that he has also "heard the rumors," but that "nothing has been offered."
Still, he feels that he can have an influence on a critical issue for Pennsylvania.
Education affects workforce development, economic stability, and building strong communities, Rivera said, adding that "there is no more important issue" facing the next governor.
Wolf has said he wants to significantly ramp up the state’s contribution to education spending, raising taxes if need be, and enact a fair funding formula for distributing that aid.
"We know the governor is going to have to fight for more education funding," Rivera said. Resources are also likely to be limited for the department itself, which has taken a hit with budget cutbacks over the last several years. There are many vacancies to fill, Rivera said.
"We need to find smart, dynamic people to help make do with the resources made available," he said.
It is important, Rivera said, to build capacity within the Education Department to carry out priorities that include the expansion and monitoring of early childhood education and promoting policies that will help districts prepare students to be college- and career-ready.
Half the 18 people on the education transition committee have Philadelphia ties. Rivera said that the makeup is very diverse, geographically and otherwise. It includes clergy, a youth leader, a classroom teacher, two principals, teachers’ union presidents, academics, and a member of a local board of education. The co-chair is John Sygielski, president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
The committee has had at least one face-to-face meeting and will make recommendations to Wolf before he is inaugurated Jan. 20.