Cortes Named to Again Head Pa. Dept. of State; Rivera to Dept. of Education

PAC Portrait 09-09

By Joe Benish

A native of Puerto Rico, Cortes began his career in 1993 at the Pennsylvania Dept. of Public Welfare. Prior to being appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth by Governor Rendell, Cortes served as executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs for three years beginning in March 2000. Cortes holds a J.D. from Penn State Dickenson School of Law, MPA from Penn State Harrisburg and a B.S. in hotel, restaurant and travel administration from the University of Massachusetts. He currently resides in Harrisburg with his wife, Lissette Lizardi-Cortes, and their daughter, Gabriela

As superintendent of The School District of Lancaster, Pedro Rivera has gained a strong reputation as one who has greatly improved student performance and college readiness, as well as the district’s finances. Nationally recognized for his work on urban education, under Rivera’s leadership both graduation rates and assessment scores have improved.  Rivera also implemented a community-schools model that breaks down barriers to students’ success.

“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,” Governor Wolf said.  “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 new Governor reiterated this theme in his inaugural address the next day, making “schools that teach” one of the three priorities for the new administration.

Pedro Rivera“Under Pedro’s leadership, The School District of Lancaster’s graduation rates have increased, and students have made gains in state assessment scores.  The district was also recently recognized by the Washington Post for having one of the top 20 high schools for academic rigor in the United States.  Pedro has worked to remove barriers to students’ success by implementing a community schools model, which provides free breakfast and lunch, as well as eyeglasses, dental care and medical services. In addition, as a result of Pedro’s foresight, the district’s fund balance has grown by millions.  I look forward to working with him to adequately and fairly fund our schools, which are the foundation to a sustainable, long-term economy in Pennsylvania,“ Wolf said.

Prior to becoming superintendent of The School District of Lancaster in 2008, Rivera spent 13 years in the Philadelphia public schools in various capacities, including principal, assistant principal, classroom teacher and human resources director. Born in Philadelphia, Rivera’s grandmother came to this country from Puerto Rico for a job in a sewing factory.  Long-active in community affairs, Rivera has served as a board member for the United Way, the Economic Development Corporation and the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, as well as president of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State and his master’s degree in education administration from Cheyney University.  Rivera received his superintendent’s letter of eligibility from Arcadia University.

As superintendent of The School District of Lancaster since 2008, Rivera oversees a district that serves approximately 11,500 diverse students and educates approximately 1,000 students during the course of the year. Some 17 percent of the students are learning English as a second language, and more than 38 languages are spoken throughout their buildings.

Staff Writer

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