• May 2015
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Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D.

Superintendent, Santa Ana Unified School District

20 Women, continued ...Published: March 01, 2012

First Job: Working as a hostess for Del Taco

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana – widely recognized for her educational leadership and success with students – in July took the helm of Orange County’s largest public school district with 58,000 students, 4,500 educators, and staff members at 61 schools. On her agenda: accelerating student achievement, increasing organization efficiency and enhancing public trust. “When I first started at the district,” she says, “I set a 100-day entry plan, which established a road map to ensure we are preparing all students to be college and career ready through the Seven C’s.” Those C’s are: Clear Focus on Learning; Communication; Comprehensive Accountability; Community and Parent Involvement; Climate; Commitment and Capacity; and Capital – the building blocks to SAUSD’s success. “I believe those of us in education entered the field because we want to make a difference and positively impact the lives of children. My friend Louis Barajas describes it as an ‘occupassion,’ a passionate commitment to educate and enlighten people.” Meléndez de Santa Ana previously served as one of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s top advisors. Prior to that, she was the superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District. The American Association of School Administrators named her the 2009 California Superintendent of the Year, and in 2010, she was named Hispanic Business Magazine’s Woman of the Year.

Biggest business challenge in 2012: Living up to the core values of respect, responsibilities and results.