from the LA Times California Briefing | May 20, 2009
School reform leader is named
PASADENA -- Joanne Weiss on Tuesday was named the leader of the nearly $4.4-billion "Race to the Top" fund, a federal effort to reform the nation's schools.
The announcement was made by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in remarks delivered via videoconference at the annual NewSchools Venture Fund Summit.
Weiss is a partner in and chief operating officer of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that invests in efforts to turn around underperforming schools. Weiss, who has a degree in biochemistry from Princeton University, is also on the board of directors of Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 10 charter schools in Southern California and this year took over Locke High, which it divided into several small schools.
In her new role, she will lead the development of the Race to the Top fund, which will offer competitive grants to states in 2009 and 2010 aimed at improving student achievement. The fund is part of the $100 billion in education spending included in the economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.
- Seema Mehta
Can you say “Conflict of Interest”?
Schools chief in line for U.S. post
POMONA -- Was it the video?
The superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, whose students produced a video that was mentioned by President Obama in a speech in March, is being nominated to oversee kindergarten-through-12th-grade schooling as assistant secretary of Education, the White House announced Tuesday.
Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana was named California's superintendent of the year in November by the Assn. of California School Administrators. If confirmed by Congress, she would become a top advisor to Education Secretary Arne Duncan as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.
As Pomona's superintendent since July 2006, Meléndez has worked on a plan to reconfigure the grade span of some schools, pushed through a $235-million bond issue and introduced a new accountability system for student achievement, said Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.
Meléndez is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, funded by philanthropist Eli Broad.
"She's a reform-minded leader," Knight said. "She's deeply passionate about ensuring that all children can achieve."
During a speech about education in March, Obama praised Pomona's Village Academy High School, whose students had produced a video about how the economic recession was affecting their lives.
But, Knight said, "I'm sure she was on their radar screen before that."
-- Mitchell Landsberg