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The Buzz: Thelma Melendez Likely to Run Garcetti’s Education Team

Hillel Aron | August 2, 2013

3547316426_81f730c166As Mayor Eric Garcetti considers his top education appointment, one name is generating more buzz than any other — Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana.

Melendez, 55, recently ended a short, two-year tenure as Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District, the sixth largest in the state, with 58,000 students and a $483 million budget. She retired in April, rather abruptly, with a press release sent out close to midnight. As the irreverent Gustavo Arellano wrote in the OC Weekly: “I had heard rumblings about Melendez, whom I know informally, for a while. She says it’s a family decision, but I’m also sure she’s glad to leave the Machiavellian politics that defines life in the Banana Republic.”

And the website New Santa Ana wrote: “Meléndez opted to retire after a horrible scandal at Spurgeon Intermediate, when the kids were found to be running amok, and the teachers had to complain to the State’s Labor Department.

Melendez was a classmate of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy‘s at Eli Broad’s Superintendent’s Academy; they both graduated in 2006. The two were photographed together in Sacramento in April, discussing Jerry Brown’s local control funding formula, apparently just hours before she retired.

Before taking the job at Santa Ana, Melendez’s previous jobs included bilingual classroom teacher in Montebello, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, and Superintendent at Pomona Unified. As the Pasadena Star-News noted, she has connections not just to Broad, but also to former LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

If appointed, Melendez would serve above Abigail Marquez, whom Garcetti named last month  as an “associate director.”

Previous posts: Garcetti Makes First Education Appointment (updated)Update: Garcetti Might Change City Hall Education JobGarcetti’s Education Staffing Plans UnclearJoan Sullivan to Head LA Partnership Schools

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