Obama to name former California educator to top education job

McClatchy Washington BureauOctober 23, 2013 

— President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Theodore Mitchell, a former California educator and the leader of a nonprofit philanthropic organization that funds education, as undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

Mitchell is a former president of the California State Board of Education and of Occidental College in Los Angeles, which Obama attended as an undergraduate. Mitchell is president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which raises money for individuals and institutions, such as charter schools and teachers, with an emphasis on low-income communities.

“I think he’s a fabulous choice. I think he’s one of the best choices they’ve made on education,” said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute who knows Mitchell well. “He’s just an unflappable guy who’s been in and around education for decades.”

Mitchell would replace Martha Kanter, who announced her resignation in August, as the department’s top higher education official and top adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to a source familiar with the decision but not authorized to speak publicly. Mitchell is expected to join the Obama administration as it gears up to overhaul teacher preparation policies later this year or early next year.

A former professor at Dartmouth College, Mitchell served in 1991 and 1992 as deputy to the president and to the provost of Stanford University. He worked at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1992 to 1998, as vice chancellor for academic planning and budget, and vice chancellor for external affairs.

He was vice president of education and strategic initiatives at the J. Paul Getty Trust from 1998 to 1999, and president of Occidental College from 1999 to 2005. He’s been with the NewSchools fund since 2005.

Mitchell also has served on the board of directors of The McClatchy Co., the nation’s third-largest newspaper company, since 2001. A representative of the company declined to comment Wednesday.

The Department of Education referred questions to the White House, which declined to comment. The Senate would have to confirm the nomination.

Mitchell did not respond to a request for comment.

“We’re really interested in teacher tools,” Mitchell told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “There’s more professional conversation going on among teachers about teaching than I’ve ever seen in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this work.”

Email: akumar@mcclatchydc.com, rschoof@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @anitakumar01, @reneeschoof

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