Former Philly Educator Named Wolf’s Secretary of Education

Pedro Rivera had moved on to be superintendent of the Lancaster school district.

Pedro Rivera, a one-time Philadelphia educator who moved on to superintendent of the Lancaster school district, has been named the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education by Governor-elect Tom Wolf.

“Pennsylvania schools are struggling. My top priority is making sure our schools have the resources to teach our children the skills they need to succeed,” said Wolf said in a statement. “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.”

The White House honored Rivera in September as a Champion of Change. “We know that we must remove barriers to success in order for our students to thrive,” Rivera said in an essay on the White House web site. “For the past several years, every student in our District has received free breakfast and lunch each school day. Through our community schools, students can receive eye glasses, dental care, and comprehensive medical services. Education is much more than teaching the core subjects. We must cater to the whole child to ensure we meet and exceed their individual needs.”

At the time, Lancaster Online noted: “The district points to an improving graduation rate, gains in state assessment scores and McCaskey High School’s 20th place ranking by The Washington Post as one of the most rigorous high schools in Pennsylvania as evidence of SDL’s growth and strengths.”

More recently, Rivera had served as co-chair of Wolf’s transition team for education. He talked to The Notebook about that job earlier this month.

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.

Rivera grew up in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia and began his career at Kensington High School.