Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, the superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, in California, is being nominated as the new assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, the White House just announced. (UPDATE: Pending Senate confirmation, of course.)
This would make Melendez the top K-12 specialist, in charge of Title I programs and other things No-Child-Left-Behind. She’d be the highest-ranking Hispanic in the department. (UPDATE 2: Reading Alexander Russo’s post on Melendez reminded me that Gabrielle Gomez, who is also at the assistant secretary level—for legislative affairs—is also Hispanic.)
Though she’s not a big-name superintendent like Washington’s Michelle Rhee or New York City’s Joel Klein, she’s got her own education street creds. She was part of the reform-y Broad Superintendents Academy, in the class of 2006. She worked for 25 years in urban school districts and is known as “Dr. T.”
One of her district’s high schools, the Village Academy, caught the attention of President Obama after students made a nine-minute, thought-provoking video called “Is Anybody Listening?,” which called attention to the economic hardship of local families and students. Obama did listen, and referenced the video and the students in his March 10 education speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And several days later, he met with the students who made the video.