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Santa Ana schools chief is named to board of J. Paul Getty Trust

June 05, 2012|By Mike Boehm | This post has been corrected. See note below for details.
  • Thelma Melndez de Santa Ana has been named to the 14-member board of the J. Paul Getty Trust. She's superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District and recently held a post at the U.S. Department of Education.
Thelma Melndez de Santa Ana has been named to the 14-member board of the J.… (J. Paul Getty Trust )

A month after laying off more than one-third of the education staff at its museums, the J. Paul Getty Trust has named one of Southern California’s top K-12 educators as the newest member of its volunteer board of trustees.

Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, superintendent of the 56,000-student Santa Ana Unified School District, will fill the seat on the 14-member Getty board that’s being vacated by investment executive Luis Nogales, who has reached the limit of three four-year terms.

Meléndez is in her first year in charge of the Santa Ana school district, the largest in Orange County, with nearly 4,500 employees, an annual budget of $483 million and a student body that's 95% Latino. She was superintendent of schools in Pomona from 2006 to 2009, then served two years in Washington, D.C., with the Department of Education as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

In 2008 Meléndez was named California's school superintendent of the year by the Assn. of California School Administrators. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology from UCLA and a doctorate from USC's Rossier School of Education; she also trained at the Broad Superintendents Academy, a school reform initiative funded by L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad.

Getty trustees oversee a $270-million-a-year operation that runs two museums – at the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa near Malibu – as well as separate grantmaking, art research and art conservation divisions that have a global reach.

Trustees’ financial duties include overseeing the massive financial investments – the endowment stood at $5.6 billion in mid-2011 – that make the Getty Trust the world’s largest visual art institution and generate nearly all of its revenue. Unlike members of most arts boards, Getty trustees aren’t required to make an annual donation – which at museums such as LACMA and L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art can approach or exceed $100,000.

Ramon Cortines, former supertinendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is a past Getty trustee; K-12 education is also the day job of another current board member, William E. B. Siart, a former banker who founded and chairs ExED, a company that provides financial management services for 55 Southern California charter schools.

The Getty board also includes former presidents of Harvard (Neil Rudenstine) and Vassar (Frances Daly Fergusson), an assortment of financial and investment executives (including the board’s chair, Mark S. Siegel), a former president of the New York Public Library (Paul LeClerc) and some familiar figures from the L.A. cultural scene (former Music Center president Joanne Kozberg and Stewart Resnick, a leading patron of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

[For the record, 5:35 p.m. June 5: A previous version of this post misidentified former Music Center president Joanne Kozberg as Joyce Kozburg.]

[For the record, 7:25 p.m. June 5: A previous version of this post misidentified former New York Public Library president Paul LeClerc as its current president.]

The Getty board has been almost entirely reconstituted since the mid-2000s, when trustees came under fire for lax oversight during scandals over questionable antiquities purchases and improper expenditures under then-president Barry Munitz. Nogales had joined in 2000; with his departure, insurance executive Jay Wintrob, an Eli Broad protége who joined in 2004, will be the longest-serving trustee.

While tapping Meléndez for its top rung of volunteers, the Getty is looking for other education-minded volunteers to serve a bit farther down the chain of operations – as docents to lead museum tours for groups of school children.

Last month, in an effort to free up an additional $4.3 million a year for art purchases, the Getty announced the layoff of 34 museum employees, including 19 from its education department.

An announcement and application form on the Getty’s website asks prosepective docents to apply by Friday for an intensive training program in July and August,  in which they’ll learn how to interpret the collection for visiting K-12 students.

“We are looking for broadly educated individuals who themselves want deep experiences with art, and who will in turn seek to deepen student and visitor engagement with artworks,” the announcement  says. The Getty is asking for a once-a-week commitment for a four-hour shift from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


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