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UPDATED: Garcetti picks up mantle from Villaraigosa, appoints education deputy

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana is expected to be named education deputy by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana is expected to be named education deputy by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to appoint veteran school district administrator Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana as his new education deputy, KPCC has learned.

The arrangement came to light in documents for L.A. Unified’s Tuesday school board meeting. A “reimbursement agreements” section included a request by the City of Los Angeles to hire an LA Unified employee.

Vivian Ekchian, L.A. Unified’s Chief of Human Resources, said that item refers to Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, who was hired by the school district at a $140,000-a-year salary.

“The superintendent’s office informed us that she was processed about a week ago,” Ekchian said.

But the district won't pay her salary. Instead, she'll be on loan to the City of L.A. as a Director of Education and Workforce Development. That would make her Mayor Garcetti's education deputy.

Her one-year contract includes teacher retirement benefits, health and welfare, and 20 vacation days among other benefits. Her total compensation package is just over $151,000. The City of LA will pay the entire benefit, plus a 3% fee to the district.

The unusual hiring arrangement is subject to approval by L.A. Unified’s seven-member board of education at Tuesday’s meeting.

Melendez de Santa Anna declined to talk to KPCC about her new job – it hasn't been announced by the mayor's office yet.  Garcetti's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Her compensation includes contributions to her teacher retirement. And that may explain the unusual  arrangement. Melendez de Santa Ana became a teacher in 1982- so contributions at L.A. Unified would add to her retirement.

"It is something that I think would make her job with the city more attractive or beneficial to her, since she would be interested in the retirement component," said L.A. Unified School board member Monica Garcia, who is pleased Melendez de Santa Ana took the job.

Garcia said district staff told her the city approached the school district with the plan.

The arrangement is outlined in a "Letter of Agreement" between City and school district officials dated Aug. 13.

According to that document, her duties include advising and assisting the mayor "in coordinating with LAUSD and stakeholders including LACCD, WIB, Business Associations, Research/Academic Institutions, Foundations, Entrepreneurs and others to lead Los Angeles residents to become more competitive for job and higher education opportunities."

Melendez de Santa Ana retired this year as Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified and was Superintendent of Pomona Unified four years ago.

She was also a former top official for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That suggests she's a supporter of charter schools and using student test scores to evaluate teachers - policies favored by L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy.

Melendez de Santa Ana’s resume also includes a fellowship with the Broad Superintendent’s Academy in 2006, the same year Deasy was a fellow there.

Letter of Agreement for Thelma Melendez