Rick Shea: Helping Educate At-Risk Students

May 3, 2018

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Early in his career, Rick Shea, board member of the San Diego County Office of Education, dedicated his work to the most underserved students, an effort, which he continues to advocate for every day.

Shea represents District 5, which includes some inland North County San Diego areas and runs along the coast from Del Mar to Camp Pendleton.

While on his way to a meeting regarding one of the schools the Office of Education runs for homeless children, Shea spoke to La Prensa San Diego about his passion for providing underserved students with a quality education.

“I’ve been a big advocate for children and for public education for all students particularly the most (underserved),” Shea said.

Shea found his passion for education as a student, he said, because he found that the most influential people in his life outside of his family were teachers who were his mentors in school.

And although he was the first in his family to pursue a career in education, Shea said his family was supportive because they, too, understood the importance of school.

The board member began his career in education while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University where he worked as a reading tutor. Shea then became a teacher’s assistant at the San Diego Unified School District where he chose to work with students at the continuation school.

Shea was the head teacher for the Juvenile Court Schools and worked as a school administrator, as well as serving on the Encinitas City Council where he started a sister city exchange program that allows students to travel to Japan and learn about a different culture.

Now, with more than 16 years in education, Shea shared it is a dream come true.

“When I started, it was so exciting to have this influence over children to help them for the future, so it was just a dream come true to be a teacher and now to be on the County Board where I can help students, parents, and teachers it’s just a dream come true,” Shea said.

Shea was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in 2015, and was elected in 2016 to complete the remainder of the which expires at the end of this year. Shea is currently running for a full four-year term on the Board.

The San Diego County Board of Education, which consists of five members that represent different areas in the country, is responsible for adopting budgets, policies, handling student expulsion appeals, and much more.

Shea said that the board also helps schools improve and runs their own schools like the Monarch School in downtown San Diego, which serves almost 300 homeless students every day.

“These children, through no fault of their own, are in a really tough spot and if we didn’t give them an education and help them with clothing and meals, which we do, they might really be trapped into that terrible situation of being homeless with no way out,” Shea said.

He added that he has a passion for helping those students and he enjoys meeting people who are interested in helping those students succeed.

“I think it’s our obligation to look out for those less fortunate individuals,” Shea said.
According to Shea, there are several challenges that the education system is facing, including the lack of funding, the danger of the Trump Administration’s move to privatize education, and continuing to support English language learners.

He said there needs to be continuous support for public education to effectively provide students with a quality education.

“I believe public education is a pillar of our democracy, it is essential for our country to provide public education to all students,” Shea said.

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