By Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1iRcRkd
3/15/14, 6:31 PM PDT :: Just seven months after joining Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration, his top education deputy Thelma Meléndez is leaving to take a position at Los Angeles Unified School District, a district spokesman said Saturday.
LAUSD superintendent John Deasy said he approached Garcetti about hiring Meléndez. Deasy added he was “thrilled” to have her join the nation’s second-largest school district.
“I asked the mayor if I could poach her,” Deasy said. “I did ask the mayor, of course, I met with the mayor, and said, ‘I really need to build a robust team as we are now beginning to think about expanding our program.”
Meléndez will work for LAUSD’s “Beyond the Bell” division, which focuses on after school and weekend programs.
Garcetti, who is out of town this weekend, according to an aide, released the following statement: “Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana has been a valuable member of our team, working on important programs that will improve the lives of young people in Los Angeles, including increasing youth work and learning opportunities in the summer.
I congratulate her on this exciting new opportunity with LAUSD and am sure our work together will continue.”
A former Santa Ana school superintendent, Meléndez was appointed as Garcetti’s education deputy in August, earning $140,000 a year. In an unusual arrangement, Meléndez was hired as an administrator by Los Angeles Unified, then “detached” to serve as Garcetti’s director of education and workforce development.
Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said in an email Saturday Meléndez’s replacement was “to be determined.”
The $140,000 annual salary Meléndez earned working at City Hall is likely to stay the same, Deasy said.
As Garcetti’s point person on education issues and LAUSD, Meléndez maintained a low profile. While Garcetti is focusing on a summer youth employment program, he has pushed no major education policies since taking office.
Meléndez retired as superintendent of Santa Ana Unified, the largest district in Orange County, last year. According to published reports, the time Meléndez spent at the district was marked by conflict with the Santa Ana teachers union and by turmoil at a middle school.