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Deborah S. Delisle to Leave Education Department to Take Helm of ASCD

By Lauren Camera — April 30, 2015 3 min read
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Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle will leave her post at the U.S. Department of Education this summer to take the helm at ASCD, the 150,000-member international education organization that provides professional development, advocates for policy shifts, and publishes books and other resources for educators and administrators.

Beginning July 1, Delisle will take on the official title of executive director and CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based organization formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

“I’m honored to join this respected association and excited to lead the next phase of ASCD’s growth,” said Delisle in a press statement. “ASCD has a talented roster of professionals dedicated to success for all educators, and loyal member and customer bases that I am proud to represent. I am passionate about ASCD’s mission to support the whole child through high-quality professional development, and I look forward to the many new initiatives we will embark upon.”

Delisle, who was confirmed in 2012, played an integral role in bringing a state chief’s voice to the Education Department, which had been criticized during the administration’s early years for being heavy on players with strong ties to education philanthropies or Capitol Hill.

Notably, Delisle is credited for creating an office of state support, an attempt to build new relationships with state education agencies when it comes to administering and monitoring federal grant programs.

“We want to be sure we are better partners with states, not just in problem-solving but in thinking about how we can better leverage funds to support increased achievement for all students,” she said in an interview with Education Week last year.

Delisle also had a huge hand in overseeing implementation of waivers under the NCLB law, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. During an in-depth interview about the waivers, she conceded that they were a massive undertaking, that building capacity to manage them has been difficult, and that the amount of change the administration asked of states has been hard, but fair.

Before the education department, Delisle served as Ohio’s schools chief from 2008 to 2011 under then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat. During her tenure there, the Buckeye State won a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan had this to say about Delisle in a statement:

Deb has been a savvy leader, a good friend and passionate fighter for the best interests of children. Her expertise and dedication have guided our work through some of the most complex policies and initiatives undertaken at the department in this administration - from providing support to states and school districts, to working to expand high quality preschool and overseeing ESEA flexibility waivers to states. Time after time, Deb helped make sure that we were making meaningful steps toward our goal of ensuring all children have access to a world class education. I am grateful to Deb for her invaluable contributions to this work over the last three years and wish her well in her next step as Executive Director and CEO of ASCD."

Delisle’s departure comes at a precarious time for the education department as it’s working to approve or deny states’ waiver extensions.

“It is with a significant amount of mixed feelings that I write this message to share that I will be moving on from the department early this summer,” Delisle wrote in an email to department employees. “It has been a tremendous honor to work for President Obama and for Arne [Duncan], as both are deeply committed to doing what’s best for all of America’s students. Above all, they always focus on the success of our educational communities, students, and families, especially those who struggle the most.”

The department has seen other high-level changes lately. One of the newest to the team is John King, who is Duncan’s “senior adviser” (he’s essentially serving as the deputy secretary of education) who previously headed New York schools.

“I know we have been going through a number of transitions recently, which is never easy,” wrote Duncan’s chief of staff Emma Vadehra, “but I’m also excited about the number of amazing new folks we have brought on in the past few months, and the ton of new ideas and fresh eyes they are bringing to our team and our work.”

In an email to department employees, Delisle said the process to finalize a nominee for her position under way, adding that the president will announce a nominee “as soon as possible” and that the department will “soon” announce who will serve in an acting capacity until a new assistant secretary is confirmed.

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