It is often the staffers and unnamed worker bees who keep the public policy wheels turning in Washington, D.C. and in the state capitols across the US. In California, I have met dozens of talented staffers who know the ins and outs of various policy areas, and often, they are much better versed on the issues than their bosses. One woman who had a big impact on educational issues in California was Melinda Melendez, who passed away last week. She most recently served as the senior education consultant to Democratic Senator Gloria Romero. You can read more about her here.
Melendez was a shadow player in that most Californians or people outside of educational policy probably would not know what she did or how her research and analysis shaped decisions. But I had the opportunity to meet her twice, and I can say that the woman knew her stuff. She was full of facts, historical references, and statistics about education, access, outcomes, and diversity in California. In addition, she had a nice list of educational accomplishments herself. And worth noting, she was a founding member of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, which has given our young people in California an opportunity to develop leadership skills and enhance their academic preparedness. So sometimes people wonder why we don’t have more Latinos in elected positions, but some who serve in the key support roles are just as important even if we don’t know their names. Ms. Melendez’s advocacy and leadership will be missed.