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Julia Beatrice Keleher
|40th Puerto Rico Secretary of Education|
|Assumed office |
January 2, 2017
|Preceded by||Rafael Román Meléndez|
Julia Beatrice Keleher
November 15, 1974
South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.
|New Progressive Party|
|Education||University of Pennsylvania (BA, MSEd)|
Strayer University (MBA)
University of Delaware (EdD)
Julia Beatrice Keleher (born November 15, 1974) is an educational leader and the current Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE), the island's only public school system with 1,113 schools, 345,000 students and 31,000 teachers. Keleher is fluent in speaking, reading and writing in English and Spanish.
Early life and education
Keleher grew up as an only child in an Italian community in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Cardinal O'Hara High School in 1992. Keleher earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (1996) and her Master of Science in Education in Psychological Services (1998) from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (2007) from the University of Delaware and received her Master of Business Administration from Strayer University in 2013. She is a certified Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute (2009) and is certified in Strategic Decision Making and Risk Management from Stanford University.
From 1997 to 1999, Keleher was a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she was a member of the team assessing the degree to which the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition) criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder resulted over-identification of Hispanic students in inner city schools. Keleher also worked as a school community liaison for Sylvan Learning from 1998 to 2000. As a liaison she designed and implemented programs to facilitate parent involvement in non-public schools in North Philadelphia. She worked with families, students, teachers, school administrators, and third party service providers (mental health, corrections, social services) to create and manage integrated service plans.
Keleher worked for Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Delaware as a senior project manager responsible for developing and implementing a new web-based assessment system and led change management effort around increasing use of data driven decision making practices. She also was the change management coach responsible for leadership and managing site-based teams implementing specific school-level improvement initiatives and the subject matter expert responsible for addressing public information requests on school accountability and providing capacity building trainings to school board members.
Keleher & Associates, LLC
In 2009, Keleher founded Keleher & Associates, LLC, a woman-owned small business based in Washington, D.C. The firm provides strategic planning, project management, and performance measurement services to the non-profit, public, and private sectors. On August 8, 2016, the firm obtained a contract with the PRDE for $231,030 dollars; the contract was valid until June 30, 2017.
US Department of Education
From 2007 to 2010, Keleher worked for the United States Department of Education (USDE) as a program manager for the Puerto Rico Technical Assistance Leader, where she operationalized and executed a strategy for increasing the department’s capacity to mitigate risk in the grant portfolio. Produced and disseminated a new business intelligence product, conducted related enterprise-wide training and capacity-building activities. Managed multiple contracts and develop annual acquisition plans in alignment with the federal budgeting process. She also worked as the team leader for the Risk Management and Monitoring Program from 2010 to 2013.
George Washington University
Puerto Rico Secretary of Education
On December 28, 2016, Keleher was appointed Puerto Rico Secretary of Education by Governor-elect Ricardo Rosselló. In her role as Puerto Rico Secretary of Education, she is transforming the K-12 educational system through four main goals:
- Improving academic achievement
- Reducing the bureaucracy and size of the system at the administrative level
- Addressing the needs of the student as a complete being
- Supporting the professionalization of teachers and directors or principals
Keleher also works to decentralize the system where previously all of the decision-making was held in the Office of the Secretary. She instituted seven Local Education Agency (LEA) districts, located in San Juan, Bayamón, Caguas, Humacao, Ponce, Arecibo and Mayagüez, with delegating authority, local decision-making, accountability and new structures.
Since her appointment, the PRDE has consolidated and closed 167 public schools with the purpose of restructuring the public education system, and cutting close to $7 million in expenses because of the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis.
On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by the most devastating hurricane in 100 years. Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and crossed the island from southeast to north, causing a huge amount of physical and emotional devastation and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The hurricane left 95% of the island without communications, food, water and medical care, and all 3.4 million residents lost their electricity supply.
All of the schools were forced to close down. A total of 164 schools were used as shelters for 9,931 people as a huge number of homes had been completely destroyed. Many of the schools that were not used as shelters were severely damaged by the hurricane, and an estimated 44 schools will never reopen.
On October 23, 2017, 33 days after the storm, the PRDE re-opened 152 schools in the regions of San Juan and Mayagüez. The department was then able to open more schools, starting on a weekly basis and then on a daily basis. As of November 13, 2017, a total of 755 schools had been re-opened, many of them without power but with running water. Keleher had first estimated that 80% of the schools would be open by mid-November; it turned out that a total of 932 schools (84%) had re-opened by November 16. The PRDE adjusted the school calendar so that students would be able to complete the 2017–2018 academic year.
Keleher has argued that the hurricane provided Puerto Rico with an "opportunity" to reform the public school system, citing comparable changes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. On November 8, 2017, US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and Secretary Julia Keleher, paid a joint visit to the Loaiza Cordero School in the Santurce district of San Juan. Secretary DeVos announced that $2 million of federal funds would be awarded by the USDE to aid in the recovery of the schools. Keleher continues to work with the USDE, private businesses and non-profit organizations to help speed the recovery and transformation of the PRDE.
- Keleher, Julia [@SecEducacionPR] (26 October 2017). "Sharing info on Katrina as a point of reference; we should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools" (Tweet) – via Twitter.