Berkeley School Board Candidate Statements, Joaquín J. Rivera

Tuesday October 19, 2004

I believe improving our educational system must be a top priority in our communities. We need good, dedicated School Board members who are committed to the institution of public education, to inspire our children and to build a better future for ALL young people. That is why I am running for re-election to the School Board. 

Education has always been especially valued in my family. Both of my parents were public school teachers. They taught me the value of a good education, and this is a lesson that I have always kept close to my heart and has served as an inspiration in my life. 

I attended public schools from my first day in kindergarten to the day I earned my Masters Degree in Chemistry at U.C. Berkeley. I feel very fortunate to have received a good, solid education that allowed me to become a teacher. From the very first day I took office I have been working hard to provide the same type of first-rate education I received for ALL of our young people so they can meet the challenges of the future. In addition to serving on many district-wide committees, I have helped shape education policy at the state level through my involvement with the California School Boards Association. 

I am proud of our district’s progress over the years I have been in office. The last four years were very difficult. Faced with reductions in state funding, declining enrollment and increased labor and supply costs, we were forced to make difficult cuts in order to balance our budget. As board president I led us head-on through these challenges, and we adopted a three-year fiscal recovery plan that balanced our budget, avoiding a state takeover, an unfortunate situation that occurred in neighboring districts such as Oakland and Emeryville. Despite these difficult times, we adopted policies and programs that are improving student achievement. I am particularly proud of the key role I played in the funding, implementation and expansion of the district’s literacy plan. 

Closing the achievement gap has been a top priority for me as a board member. Results over the last five years indicate that we have made considerable progress in closing the achievement gap for African American, Latino and low-income students at all elementary schools. This was accomplished through my focus on implementation of strategies to help all students succeed at the elementary grades. Together with a group of parents, administrators and teachers, we developed a comprehensive K-5 literacy plan that served as the catalyst for reform at the elementary schools. In addition to the safety net Reading Recovery (Descubriendo la Lectura for Spanish speaking students), this plan includes literacy coaches and professional development for teachers, reliable student assessments, and accountability. 

Other successes during my tenure on the board include: strengthened fiscal accountability, successful defense of our school integration program, approval of a small schools policy for BHS, hiring of an outstanding high school principal, and successful renovation of facilities. 

Although there is still much to do, I believe we have laid a solid foundation to make our district the best in California. My goals for the next four years include: 

—Development and implementation of a strategic master plan to provide Berkeley students a world-class education 

—Expansion of the successful programs at the elementary schools to the middle and high schools 

—Adoption of new strategies to close the achievement gap while improving the academic performance of all students 

—Increase of parental access to and involvement in their children’s education 

—Fiscal accountability 

—Site accountability for their student achievement plans 

—Quality professional development for teachers to ensure they have the skills necessary to be successful in the classroom 

We need the proven, experienced, knowledgeable and committed leadership that I can provide in order to accomplish these goals and to continue moving the district in the right direction. 

It has been an honor to represent you on the School Board. I continue to listen with an open mind and attempt to find the best solutions for all students. I have been endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party, Berkeley Democratic Club, National Organization for Women, Senator Don Perata, School Board Directors Shirley Issel and Nancy Riddle, former School Board Directors Pamela Doolan, Lloyd Lee, Miriam Rokeach (Topel), Ted Schultz and Elizabeth Shaughnessy, City Councilmembers Mim Hawley, Betty Olds, Dona Spring and Gordon Wozniak, former Mayor Shirley Dean, Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan, and Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Jacki Fox Ruby, among others.  

Please join me as I continue to work to improve the educational quality of our schools and the fiscal accountability of the district. I have devoted my professional life to serving public education, and I will continue these efforts as your board representative. 

—Joaquín J. Rivera