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Pennsylvania’s top education official to step down

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera takes part in a news conference Jan. 16, 2020, to announce grants intended to combat sexual assaults on college campuses.

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera announced Tuesday he will resign in October to become president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he will nominate Deputy Secretary of Postsecondary and Higher Education Noe Ortega to fill the cabinet position.

“Noe Ortega has a proven record of advocating for equity and access for all students,” Wolf said. “Recently, Noe has been spearheading Pennsylvania’s efforts to diversify our educator pipeline to make our classrooms better reflect the students we educate, and his expertise will continue to advance the department’s mission of ensuring Pennsylvania’s learners have access to the educational opportunities that will help them succeed.”

Rivera’s departure comes amid a turbulent time for educators, administrators and lawmakers alike as they grapple with school reopening plans that prioritize social distancing. The state Department of Education has been criticized for its hands-off role in implementing these policies, preferring instead to leave decisions about returning to in-person instruction up to each of the state’s 500 school districts.

Wolf’s statement on Tuesday, however, credited Rivera with helping the state navigate its educational response to the pandemic.

“His leadership has been critical during the commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 and the relationships he cultivated with education stakeholders during his tenure have strengthened the ties between state and local partners and allowed local schools to inform state education policy,” he said.

Rivera joined the administration in 2015 after serving as the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster. He also spent years working in the School District of Philadelphia as a teacher, principal and executive director.

“Secretary Rivera is a demonstrable leader with nationally recognized experience to lead the college through these very challenging times for higher education,” said Maryann Marotta, chair of the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Board of Trustees and Vice President of Marotta/Main Architects. “His experience in education, leadership, and governmental policy align with the needs of the institution, and his strength and drive will serve to advance the mission of the college throughout the Commonwealth, impacting the lives of economically and socially underserved students and their families for generations.”

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