To Our West Contra Costa Community:
I’m Richard Pelayo, a proud son of Mexican immigrants, first generation college graduate, and former WCCUSD classroom teacher.
My work with our schools and students over the last eight years has left me, time and again, moved by each child’s unique sense of creativity, charm, and brilliance. Yet time and again, I’ve witnessed the heavy hearts of so many families who face serious barriers in preparing their children for success.
Thinking back to my own childhood and family, I’m reminded of how clearly I internalized the fact that getting an education was the key to improving one’s situation in life.
For decades, my father sustained our family by working as a laborer. While he took pride in his work, he knew that his life — and by extension, our family’s — may have turned out differently, had he received a better education and been empowered to earn more. Like dad, mom arrived to this country with just an eighth grade schooling. She, too, worked tirelessly to provide for the three of us kids, and eventually returned to school to obtain her vocational nursing license.
While my parents struggled to find grounding in America, we moved frequently. It wasn’t until third grade that we finally settled in a community where my neighborhood school had adequate programs and resources to support my needs as an English Language Learner.
Yet, how great would it be if all children had the opportunity, no matter where they landed or lived, to be nurtured by a school, district, and community of adults that cared deeply, acted boldly, and hoped relentlessly for each and every one of their futures?
Two decades later, I see my former Nystrom and Lincoln students facing a reality similar to the one I experienced. Our students who are not English Learners, too, face different types of challenges. What’s shared among them all is the fact that many of these problems are beyond their control.
That’s why as we move forward in this work, my team and I will be grounded in a core belief:
It’s our responsibility, as adults, to work together and create conditions for every student to lead a great life.
Inspired by our community’s potential for partnership and collaboration, I urge us all to come together — from the hills to the flat lands — and deliver on the promise of a high-quality education for every child in our neighborhoods.
And when I say that, I mean, quite literally, that we must be intentional in caring just as much about the success of our own children as we do about the success of other people’s children in other neighborhoods.
Because each moment that we fail to respond to the needs of our community as a whole, another kid loses out on opportunities for success. In the spirit of teamwork and the urgency of now, I hope you’ll join us.