Tony Thurmond won a narrow, hard fought victory in November and will be sworn in shortly as the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. On Thursday, he came to Davis to swear in Tom Adams, who works for the Department of Education as a Deputy Superintendent and he also addressed the board and public.
He spoke of being a school board, being warned that people will only show up when they are angry – which he said was accurate. “It’s true, no one showed up unless someone was angry, but it was the most rewarding job that I’ve ever had – the opportunity to serve our kids.”
The Superintendent praised the voters for the passage of Measure M and talked about the need for new facilities. He said that when he served in Contra Costa County, mainly the city of Richmond, they had a billion dollar bond program.
“Our citizens enabled us to have a billion dollar bond program that allowed us to rebuild nearly every single school in our district. Ours is not a wealthy district – largely working people and low income families, and middle class families who care about education.”
“I’m simply here because of people like you and people in my district who care about education,” Mr. Thurmond said. “I am the son of immigrants, my mother immigrated from Panama and was a teacher in San Jose. My dad immigrated all the way from Detroit, Michigan. He was a soldier who served in Vietnam, I didn’t see my father for 30 years until I found him on the internet.”
He said, “My mother raised four kids by herself until she could not. She was very very sick. She had cancer and when I was six years old, she lost her battle to cancer. My siblings and I got split up – some of them stayed in San Jose, two of us ended up in Philadelphia being raised by my cousin who I never met until showed up on her doorstep.
“If you can imagine a five and a six year old showing up on your doorstep who you never met before, you take them in and raise them as your sons.”
He said, “She insisted on many things, including that we would get a high quality of education.”
“We participated in many public programs,” he explained. “I was on the free lunch program. All of my friends made fun of me for eating the free lunch. Then I became an adult and realized, everyone in my school, was on the free lunch program.”
“When I went to the store to buy anything, I went with a food stamp coupon. This was long before the days of the EBT card. People made fun of me, but I realized everyone in my neighborhood was on some form of public assistance. I ate so much government cheese, that I thought the USDA was a brand name.”
Mr. Thurmond said, “The greatest public program I had a chance to be a part of, was getting a great quality education. It helped my family to overcome poverty. It helped me to get the opportunity to go to college and graduate school and become a social worker.”
“There are six million students (in California) and all of them deserve our help and whatever we can provide for them to have a great education,” the Superintendent-elect explained. “I’ve been impressed with what I read about the Davis joint school district. I’ve read very great things. I’m sure there are more things that can be done and I pledge my support… to help make that happen.”
He said, “We have got to change the narrative of education in California. As the fifth wealthiest economy in the world, there is no reason that California should be 46 or 45th in the nation in per pupil spending. My top priority is to make what we spend on our kids, number one.”
Superintendent-elect Thurmond said, “I want to see our kids prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. So we provide them with more STEAM education, Career-Technical education and the opportunity to learn a second language. Our students should be global leaders and critical thinkers who think beyond the test, who know how to serve their community, who understand civics, who understand their commitment to environmental education and making a difference in their communities for their families and for themselves.”
He said he was here on Thursday as a guest, but “I want to be your partner in what we can do to support students in this district and the great state of California.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting