‘Papa T’ now coaching California education

In marked contrast to the scenes in state capitols around the country, new California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said there would be an end to fingerpointing in the Golden State.
His 25 years as a cross-country coach at the high school level taught him the “TEAM” method (Together Everyone Accomplishes More). As leader of the state’s 7 million student learning apparatus, Torlakson told a gathering of Alameda County superintendents and school board members in Berkeley that everyone will have to work together to return the state’s schools to their former status as national leaders.
He was put on the spot about addressing inequities for African-American and second-language minority students after the end of the P-16 Council ( a panel which made recommendations about closing the achievement gap).
Torlakson said he began his career as a science teacher in the Baypointe area of Contra Costa County who engaged students in field trips and experiments. He is fundraising among foundations to fill in gaps created by state budget cuts.
Torlakson backed the budget initiatives of Gov. Jerry Brown, particularly the proposed referendum on extending current tax rates for five years and ending redevelopment agencies. “If I have a choice between $1 billion on redevelopment and a $1 billion on education, I choose education every time.”
The new superintendent is leaning towards a more balanced approach to assessment among two models being encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education. “There’s more to life than multiple choice and there’s more to life than rote memorization,” he said.
Many of his decisions will be guided by his other new job as a grandparent. “I’m not old enough to be called grandpa, so I’m Papa T,” Torlakson said to laughter from the audience of 300. “So if you need a rapper or something to come to your school, just call on Papa T.”

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