Wilson Riles' contribution to public education in California can best be understood by understanding the man and the way he thought. Riles' commitment to children and to public education was widely known and respected. However, the two characteristics which best summarize his approach to almost all educational challenges and problems were his integrity and his wisdom - integrity reflected in his core values and morality, and wisdom that reflected a deep understanding of people, institutions and the way of things.
When Riles assumed the superintendency of California's public schools, he brought with him a deep abiding faith that public schools could address the needs of all children. He also had supreme confidence that he could make that happen. Riles believed the State's role is to ensure that schools serve all the children - handicapped, improverished, limited- or non-English-speaking - regardless of need. He also believed deeply that only by strengthening the base of the program for all children could the supplemental programs for the needy or underserved be effective.
Thus, it was not surprising that the Riles administration became known for educational initiative in two major areas. First, Riles understood that many children were not being served by the public schools. His first priority was to implement programs that ensured that every school-age child in California had access to a public eduction program. A prime example of this was in the area of special education. The California Master Plan for Special Educationl, implemented in 1974, became a national model for meeting the needs of handicapped children. During his tenure, Riles also implemented numerous other programs to meet the needs of underserved populations, including:
As important as these intiatives were, it was his commitment to rebuild the base program for schools that made the longest lasting impact. The Early Childhood Education program, which began a school-site-based reform and restructuring of primary and elementary education, and the continuation of this effort with the School Improvement Program expension into secondary education, made contributions that continue to be felt today. It is not an overstatement to say that these early reforms fundamentally changed the way schools were run in California.
The systemwide changes accomplished by the Riles administration were fundamental and far-reaching. Their impact on the system continues to be felt today. It is important to understand that these could not have occurred without the personal leadership of Wilson Riles. Riles' unique ability to lead diverse, often hostile adversarial groups made reform possible. He was able to work with two totally different governors (Governors Reagan and Brown), widely different State Boards of Education, and virtually all advocacy groups. It was his personal integrity, wisdom and commitment to children that made this possible.
Davis W. Campbell, who has an extensive 22-year background in public education, has been the executive director of the California School Boards Association (a non-profit association representing more than 5,000 locally elected school board members throughout California) since 1988.
Prior to being named executive director of CSBA, Campbell was executive director of the California Institute for School Improvement (CISI), a non-profit organization that provides direct support for schools and teachers, and managing partner of SRA Associates, a Sacramento-based educational consulting firm.
From 1972-1983, Campbell served as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for California. He had a key role in major educational initiatives, including the School Improvement Program which fosters planning at the school site level, a central feature of many educational reform proposals today.
He has served on numerous state and national committees and commissions, including the California Commision on Crime Control and Violence Prevention; California Round Table on Educational Opportunity; the California Interagency Committee on Vocational Education; the California Task Force for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Chair of the subcommittee on the Role of School Boards for National School Boards Association; Policy Analysis for the California Education's School Choice Advisory Committee; and the Institute of Educational Leadership's National Steering Committee to Reform Urban Education Governance.