Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Ed. Dept. Churn Brings New Faces to Key Initiatives

By Alyson Klein — October 07, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

We’re closing in on the twilight of the Obama administration and, at this point, many of the folks originally in charge of major initiatives, including Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind Act waivers, and School Improvement Grants, have left the building—literally.

This kind of churn is pretty typical at the end of an administration, but bringing in new people can have an impact on policy.

So who’s come and gone in the last couple years? Joanne Weiss, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s former chief of staff, who helped develop Race to the Top, and Ann Whalen, the former head of the department’s Implementation and Support Unit (which oversaw Race to the Top implementation), have both left the department.

The state level, K-12 versions of the Race to the Top program will now be overseen by the brand-new Office of State Support, which will be headed up by Monique Chism, a senior career staffer (as opposed to political appointee), who came to the department after working on accountability and other issues for Illinois.

The Office of School Turnaround, which oversaw the SIG program, will also be folded into the new state support officfe. The original head of the turnaround office, Jason Snyder, left the department a while back.

NCLB waivers are under the new office’s purview, too. The waivers have gone through more twists and turns than any other Obama K-12 policy. Many of the recent changes are aimed at making the policy more workable for most states (as opposed to setting a high bar that only some folks can get over, an idea that Anne Hyslop, an analyst for Bellwether Education Partners, champions in this blog post, which is definitely worth a read).

The staff overseeing waivers has gone through a lot of change, too. In fact, only two senior staffers who worked on the original policy remain: Emma Vadehra, who is now Duncan’s chief of staff, and Scott Sargrad, now the deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives.

Initially, Carmel Martin, the former assistant secretary for planning evaluation and policy, and Vadehra, did the policy development on the waivers. They had help from Michael Yudin, who at the time was the senior person at the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Yudin hasn’t left the department, but he’s now dealing with special education programs.)

The current Team Waiver is headed up by Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education and a former state chief (from Ohio). When she was in the Buckeye State, Delisle was very active in the Council of Chief State School Officers, and she seems to have kept up a good working relationship with many of her old counterparts. Also on Team Waiver: Chism and Amy McIntosh, who also has a background at state education agencies. She came to the department after working on teacher evaluation for the New York State Department of Education.