A Coming—and a Possible Going—for State Schools Chiefs in Pa., R.I.

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 20, 2015 1 min read
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Governor-elect Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has picked Pedro Rivera, the superintendent of the Lancaster district in the state, as his next state education chief, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Jan. 19.

Rivera’s selection doesn’t count as a real surprise—Wolf, a Democrat, tabbed Rivera to be co-chairman of his education transition team. He will replace Carolyn Dumaresq as head of the state education department.

The superintendent of the 11,500-student district between Philadelphia and Harrisburg since 2008, Rivera received national recognition last year from President Barack Obama’s administration as a “Champion of Change” for his work to improve curriculum and professional development in the district. Lancaster is a majority-minority district (59 percent of the students are Hispanic and 18 percent are black), and 84 percent of the students in Lancaster receive free or reduced-price meals.

On Jan. 8, Rivera, a Philadelphia native, told Dale Mezzacappa of “The Notebook” that, “We know the governor is going to have to fight for more education funding.” (Last month I wrote about the challenges facing Wolf as he looks to make good on his key campaign promise to increase spending on public schools.)

As Rivera takes over as a state chief, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island might be stepping away from her post. Gist, who was appointed Rhode Island’s top school officer in 2009, is reportedly a finalist for the Tulsa superintendent’s post, according to WPRI, a Rhode Island TV station.

Gist’s fate has been the topic of conversation since the Rhode Island state school board declined to renew her contract by a deadline of Jan. 1. Although her contract is still in effect until the summer, it was a signal that Gist could part ways with the Ocean State.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.