If you perused the staff list at Education Post, a new rapid-fire communications firm started by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan messaging guru Peter Cunningham, you might have noticed a familiar face: Ann Whalen, who had been one of Duncan’s right-hand staffers since his days as Chicago’s school superintendent. (The Washington Post has a great write up about Education Post and what it’s up to.)
Whalen, who left the department at the end of July, spent the last six years at the department, where she most recently headed up the Implementation and Support Unit, which the Obama administration billed as a new approach to technical assistance and federal-state partnership.
Whalen played a key role in overseeing major initiatives, including the Race to the Top state-level competitions, Race to the Top assessments, and Race to the Top districts. And before that, she helped with School Improvement Grants, the stimulus program’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, and the Teacher Incentive Fund.
Whalen said in an interview that in many ways, her new gig will mirror her old one. She’ll be working, she said, to help state and district officials and others to have a “constructive conversation about how can continue to support improvements at the state and local classroom level,” without resorting to personal attacks.
Patrick Rooney has taken over as the Education Department’s acting director of the implementation and support unit. But Whalen’s departure leaves a big hole in a department that has lost some key players over the past year—and Congress has been sluggish at helping to fill big vacancies at 400 Maryland Ave., leaving very few folks to tackle a very long to-do list.