Department of Education announces key staff appointments

Biden administration positions continue to take shape as Sheila Nix named agency's Chief of Staff.
By: | January 22, 2021
STILLF/Getty Images

Sheila Nix, who was a key advisor to President Joe Biden during the election campaign and a former policy coordinator for Jill Biden and President Barack Obama, was named Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education late Thursday.

Nix, who most recently was president of political campaign organizer Tusk Strategies, was instrumental in helping forge education and healthcare policies as the Deputy Governor of Illinois and Chief of Staff for a pair of Illinois senators, according to the department.

Nix also assisted the new First Lady on communications for “signature efforts serving veterans, teachers, students, and women” during the Obama Administration. A graduate of Creighton University and the University of Chicago Law School, she has spent most of her career in leadership positions in politics and through nonprofit organizations. One of her most notable efforts was as executive director of U2 singer Bono’s ONE campaign in the U.S.

Another leader from the Chicago area, Claudia Chavez, was tabbed to be the White House Liaison for the department. Chavez, who was Deputy Director for Legislative Council and Government Affairs under former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was a member of the Biden-Kamala Harris Education Agency Review Team.

They are set to serve with former Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, who earned Biden’s nomination as Education Secretary, and Cindy Marten, the former Superintendent of San Diego Unified Schools who will be the new Deputy Security. Cardona still must be confirmed by the Senate.

“These diverse and accomplished individuals will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the agency and work to quickly advance key education priorities for the Biden-Harris administration,” the Department said in a statement.

Among the others who have been picked to serve at the deparment:

  • Donna Harris-Aikens (Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning, Office of the Secretary): Another member of the Biden-Harris Education Agency Review Team, she served as Senior Director for Education Policy and Practice at the National Education Association (NEA). In that time, she was a strong champion for equity and for working families.
  • Rich Williams (Chief of Staff, Office of Postsecondary Education): A first-generation college graduate, Williams has been an advocate for students and protecting consumers while developing policy solutions at The Pew Charitable Trusts. He was a former policy analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a Senior Policy Education Advisor for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
  • Suzanne Goldberg (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach, Office for Civil Rights): The former Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia University, Goldberg also was founder of its Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic. Prior to that experience, she was a faculty member at Rutgers-Newark Law and Fordham Law School.
  • Ian Rosenblum (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education): The Executive Director of the Education Trust–New York, he helped advocate for equity in education. Rosenblum was also the former Deputy Secretary for Education and Opportunity under Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Secretary of Policy and Planning under former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
  • Ben Miller (Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff): The former Vice President for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress is a temporary appointee. Before that work, he was an advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Ben Halle (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications, Office of Communications and Outreach): He was the Biden For President communications director in Michigan during the election campaign. He has performed similar roles on other campaigns.
  • Alex Payne (Special Assistant, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs): The former assistant to House representative Kim Schrier (D-WA) and a member of the Committee on Education and Labor, Payne was also a high school social studies teacher in North Carolina.
  • Greg Schmidt (Senior Counsel, Office of the General Counsel) and Jasmine Bolton (Senior Counsel, Office for Civil Rights): Two attorneys, Schmidt helped represent clients on K-12 and post-secondary education matters. He is also a former fifth-grade teacher from Brooklyn, N.Y. And Bolton, a former legal fellow who has backed equity and mental health access, assisted Elizabeth Warren during her campaign run for president on K-12 matters.