Thanking Californians for giving him the opportunity to serve, Tom Torlakson took his oath of office as California’s 27th State Superintendent of Public Instruction Monday in a simple ceremony attended by educators, students, and members of his family in the gymnasium of Mount Diablo High School, where he taught science and world history.
“It has been a while since I taught here, but I still call Mount Diablo my school. That’s just how teachers think. It’s never `the school’ or `the class’ or ‘the student’ – it’s ‘my school,’ ‘my class,’ ‘my student,’” Torlakson said.
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“That’s the kind of commitment and responsibility every educator places on his or her own shoulders every day. It’s not in the Education Code. It’s not in any contract. It’s just part of being a teacher. Let’s be sure we never take that for granted. Because everything we hope to accomplish rests on the commitment of those who make teaching their life’s work,” he said.
Torlakson acknowledged that he was taking office at a difficult time for public education after years of budget cuts have placed undue hardships on schools across the state.
“We face huge challenges in California,” Torlakson said. “Yet we also have incredible opportunities—to make the investments that restore our state to its rightful place as a leader in public education; to give every child the chance to learn in a safe and healthy school environment; to bring teachers, parents, and advocates together in a thoughtful and productive dialogue that makes learning a priority; to bring 21st century learning to every school; and to hold ourselves accountable for the dollars we spend and the results we achieve.”
Affirming his great belief in teamwork, Torlakson pledged to form partnerships and collaborate with professional educators, Governor Brown, lawmakers, higher education advocates, business, and non-profit and community-based organizations to focus on giving every California student the opportunity to succeed.
Torlakson also called on Californians to work together to support public education and their local schools.
“We need you,” Torlakson said. “We need your ideas, your energy, and your commitment because nothing is more vital than education in changing lives, improving communities, and securing a bright future for our children and our state in this competitive global age.”
Napa County Office of Education Superintendent Barbara Nemko, an innovative and respected educator, administered the oath of office.
Speaking at the event were:
- Robert Lualhati, Torlakson’s former coach from Westmoor High
- Liane Cismowski, vice principal and a teacher at Mount Diablo
- Araceli Ramirez, former Torlakson student
- Anthony Amerson, former Torlakson student
- Patti Waldhaus, former cross country runner
Others participating in the ceremony included:
- Teacher and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti served as master of ceremonies
- Mount Diablo Unified School District Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Eberhart welcomed the audience
- De’Shawyn Woolridge, a political science student of Torlakson’s at Los Medanos College, led the Pledge of Allegiance
- Mount Diablo High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps performed the Presentation of the Colors
Performing at the event were:
- Ladies First, the award-winning Concord High School Choral Department barbershop group, performed the national anthem
- Dublin High School Jazz Band, which performed before the ceremony and during the reception.
In addition, students and faculty of the Mount Diablo High School Serendipity Restaurant, a regional occupational program, catered the reception following the ceremonies.
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The California Department of Education (CDE) is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit http://www.cde.ca.gov  or by mobile device at http://m.cde.ca.gov/ . You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/TorlaksonSSPI .
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Biography
Tom Torlakson was elected to a four-year term as California’s 27th State Superintendent of Public Instruction on November 2, 2010. As the new chief of California’s public school system and leader of the California Department of Education, Superintendent Torlakson applies his experience as a science teacher, high school coach, and state policymaker to fight for California’s students and improve the state’s public education system. Torlakson’s journey has led him from the classrooms of Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District, (where he remains a teacher-on-leave) to the Antioch City Council, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and the California state Senate and Assembly.
During his tenure in the California state Legislature, Torlakson acted to protect education funding, improve student nutrition and physical education, and ensure school safety. He also championed legislation to increase funding for textbooks, computers, and other instructional materials as well as efforts to close the digital divide, eliminate the achievement gap, and reduce the dropout rate.
In 1998, Torlakson authored legislation leading to development of the largest system of after school programs in the nation. In 2006, he authored the bill that led to a 300 percent expansion of these programs—so they now reach 4,000 schools around the state. Torlakson authored the Quality Education Improvement Act (SB 1133) in 2006, which dedicates nearly $3 billion to our lowest-performing schools. He also played a key role negotiating and authoring the $9 billion Proposition 1A bond measure in 1998, which has led to votes supporting more than $36 billion to build new schools and improve existing school buildings.
As the chair and founder of the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness, Torlakson has been a leader in banning junk food from our schools, providing healthier school meals, promoting student health and fitness, and combating diabetes and obesity among our children.
Born in San Francisco, Torlakson served as a fireman in the United States Merchant Marine, earning the Vietnam Service Medal. He earned a B.A. in History, a Life Secondary Teaching Credential, and an M.A. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley.
Torlakson, 61, lives in Pittsburg, California with his wife Mae Cendaña Torlakson. He has two adult daughters both of whom attended California public schools.