Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana

Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana was approved as Mayor Eric Garcetti's education advisor. (The J. Paul Getty Trust / August 20, 2013)

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday ratified the unusual hiring of the mayor’s top education advisor, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana.

Melendez will be brought on as an employee of the L.A. Unified School District, but with her salary and benefits paid by the city of Los Angeles. The arrangement will allow Melendez, a career educator, to continue to accrue pension benefits in the state teachers retirement system. Her salary will be $139,000, according to a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The school board approved the deal, which was packaged with other personnel moves, unanimously without comment.

Melendez's title with the city will be director of education and workforce development. Besides providing guidance on matters affecting L.A. Unified, she will also be a liaison with local colleges and businesses to improve connections between education and job training.

Until her surprise resignation several months ago, Melendez headed the Santa Ana Unified School District. From 2009 to 2011, she served as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary schooling in the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, she headed Pomona Unified for about three years.

The hiring of Melendez was praised by former L.A. schools Supt. Ramon Cortines, who had tried unsuccessfully in 2010 to persuade Melendez to take a job as deputy superintendent in L.A. Unified.

“The mayor made a good choice,” Cortines said. “Her expertise is in instruction and certainly she knows how to manage.”

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