Education Secretary-Designate an Expert in Federal Funding
SAN JUAN—The designated Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, seems to fit the objectives of Governor-elect Ricardo Rosselló’s policy platform, dubbed Plan for Puerto Rico, in the educational area: to transform the bureaucratic system, use science and technology for greater performance, achieve a bilingual system in phases and maximize the use of federal funds.
However, Keleher’s designation has been treated with concern by several teacher unions who question Keleher’s true plans within the Department of Education (DE).
Keleher has 20 years of experience in the educational and government field and is “an expert in education, grant management and project management,” according to the description that appears on the website of her company Keleher & Associates, founded in 2009. She speaks English as a first language as well as Spanish and some Italian, according to her LinkedIn profile.
A bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, Keleher also obtained master’s in Psychology at the same university and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Delaware.
Keleher claimed she has worked for 10 years with the DE and, according to her company’s website, the project they collaborated with was related to a local plan to comply with thefederal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
In addition, Keleher & Associates currently has a contract with the DE that ws issued on August 8 and runs through June 30, 2017 for consulting services for a cost of $231,030. The contract, it was reported yesterday, will be canceled before Keleher starts work as DFE secretary.
A native of Philadelphia, Keleher aims to improve academic achievement of students on the island, optimize the use of resources, and meet the recommendations of the Fiscal Oversight Board imposed by the Promesa Act.
Teacher unions watching designation carefully
But despite the plaudits that the Keleher received yesterday Governor-elect Rosselló, several leaders of teacher unions have some doubts about the designation, since Keleher’s primary experience is not in the classroom, but rather in the administrative field. In addition, they questioned Keleher’s plans, especially if they would lead to a privatization of the island’s educational system.
“What I could find is that she is a person whose main specialty is in administrative processes, project management. You can, at the administrative level, do some things, but that does not necessarily have to do with the day-to-day process in the classroom, “said the president Of the Association of Teachers, Aida Díaz, in a radio interview (Radio Isla).
Díaz added she is aware that New Progressive Party (PNP) teachers “are very disappointed” with the appointment. However, the union leader said she would give Keleher a chance.
On the other hand, the president of the Teachers Federation, Mercedes Martínez, requested a meeting with the Secretary-designate. “We are now requesting a meeting to attend many situations that Rafael Román (outgoing Secretary of Education) refused to attend,” Martínez said in a radio interview (NotiUno).