Education

California education official resigns after working from Texas





Empty school hallway.

An empty Hollywood High hallway on Sept. 8, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. | Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Updated


A second high-ranking California Department of Education official has resigned because she lives out of state.

Pamela Kadakia served as a CDE equity project manager but resides in Texas, based on public records and her LinkedIn profile.

Her exit follows the departure of Daniel Lee, a Philadelphia-based psychologist, life coach and long-time acquaintance of California schools chief Tony Thurmond, who was involved in Lee’s hiring. Lee was the state’s first superintendent of equity and earned more than $161,000 annually.

Lee, 51, resigned shortly after POLITICO reported that his appointment may have violated state policy decreeing that state employees must live in California unless their jobs require them to live elsewhere, such as those lobbying the federal government in Washington.

CDE confirmed Kadakia’s departure in a statement Thursday. “We sought to ensure that all our personnel were in line with the new guidance,” the department said in a statement. “In doing so, we accepted Ms. Kadakia’s resignation.”

Kadakia’s LinkedIn profile shows she pursued her doctorate in education at Texas A&M University from 2019 to 2021. Prior to joining CDE, she taught for more than four years at Richland College in Dallas, Texas.

Records show Kadakia, 34, lives in the Dallas area, where she and her husband purchased a home in 2019. She appears to have worked in Texas since 2016, according to LinkedIn, but originally hails from California, graduating from Walnut High School in east Los Angeles County and earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Fullerton.

Not only are California state employees generally prohibited from living out of state, but they are banned from traveling to Texas and 17 other states deemed to have discriminatory laws.

While Kadakia’s profile says her equity project manager post started in January, CDE said she worked at the agency “for approximately one month” and earned a salary of $10,400. The state Department of Education has used its nonprofit affiliate to hire several top aides in the past before moving them to state employment, as was the case with Lee. It is not clear whether that happened in Kadakia’s case.

Kadakia did not respond to an email request for comment.

Lee’s resignation reverberated around the state amid concerns that his hiring process smacked of favoritism and that his East Coast residency should make him ineligible for the highly paid post.

Lee was initially hired in 2020 by the California Department of Education’s nonprofit affiliate, but moved into a department position this summer with a salary range between $161,400 and $179,832.

CDE told POLITICO that the nonprofit affiliate never posted Lee’s position publicly. Thurmond, who was influential in the hire, has known Lee for nearly three decades since they were social workers in Philadelphia, and they grew close enough that Lee was in Thurmond’s wedding party.

Lee was hired to help address inequity in California schools, which have long seen students of color and those from low-income households suffer from an achievement gap. Some advocacy groups have also sued the state over disproportionate disciplinary impacts on Black and Latino students.

In an 18-page resume, Lee seemingly had no prior experience in California schools or relationships with school districts.