It’s been rumored for a while that Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana has had one foot out the door as the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.
Now, the rumors are swirling again that she’s been job hunting in California, where much of her history resides. Apparently, there’s at least some truth to these latest rumors, because she’s considering taking a job.
Officially, from the Education Department today:
“Dr. Melendez has been approached about several positions outside the administration and she is considering one of them. She has made no final decisions. In the meantime, she will continue working at the Department to help broadly reform K-12 education in America.” (The department wouldn’t elaborate on the job she’s considering.)
Melendez has not been a high-profile part of Arne Duncan’s team. When you think about the big initiatives the department has undertaken—from Race to the Top to ESEA reauthorization to School Improvement Grants—she has not been out front on any. In fact, when I first interviewed her back in November 2009, she said little about how she would influence the department’s policy. (UPDATE: The department wants to point out that Melendez did play a role in getting State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and Education Jobs Fund grants out the door in a timely manner.)
UPDATE (2/24): I have been remiss in not pointing out that although Melendez may not have a high-profile role with the department, she is a behind-the-scenes mover-and-shaker. The things she's been working on aren't nearly as eye-catching as Race to the Top, or Investing in Innovation, but important (and maybe more so) nonetheless. She's working on building relationships between superintendents and the department, and has helped move her office from one of ensuring compliance to one of fostering the sharing of best practices, though increased technical assistance to federal education grant recipients. And Duncan had this to say about her Thursday, in an email statement to me: "Thelma has helped change the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education from a compliance driven bureaucracy to an engine of innovation. Her work on our ESEA Blueprint and the needs of English language learners added a indispensable perspective and voice to the way we approach education reform in the Obama Administration."
Although her statement today certainly doesn’t seal her fate at the department, it seems she’s definitely a short-timer there.