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Cuomo loses a top education aide as reform panel reconvenes

For the second time in six months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tiny team of education aides is undergoing transition.

The departure of Katie Campos, Cuomo’s P-12 assistant education secretary since 2011, comes as one of the governor’s major initiatives, his education reform commission, prepares to renew its operations.

Campos’s last day is technically today as she prepares to enter law school this fall. But a spokesman for Cuomo said she’s sticking around parttime — and unpaid — through the summer to oversee the commission, which convenes next week for a second and potentially more controversial phase of meetings.

Cuomo and a small circle of policy advisors, including Jim Malatras, set the governor’s education agenda. But the execution of that agenda is largely left to a deputy secretary and two assistants. Campos’s is the second departure in a year for the triumvirate, of which Campos, at 27, was the most experienced member.

David Wakelyn, Cuomo’s first deputy for education, left last April after eight months on the job. His post that was not filled for six months, until De’Shawn Wright took over. (Lonnie Threatte is assistant secretary on higher education.)

Wakelyn, who said he left because of the strain it placed on his family, said Campos earned a reputation as a workhorse who “worked on pretty much anything and everything.”

“Katie just has remarkable energy and brings fierce intelligence and passion to the work,” Wakelyn said.

Campos’s hire in June 2011 was viewed skeptically by many seasoned education officials and advocates, based on her age and background. After graduating from college three years earlier, Campos had worked for Democrats for Education Reform and the New York State Charter Schools Association. Campos also formed a parent-organizing group, Buffalo ReformEd, that pushed for a parent trigger law in her home city.

“She was a person who I had never met before in my life. She was very young and she came from a background that would suggest very education reform, very pro-charter,” said Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. “But once I got to know her, I was very impressed. She’s smart and very dedicated and accessible and she kept an open mind.”

Campos, who declined to comment about her departure, was seen as a key advisor on Cuomo’s ambitious education agenda. She was a point person to the commission’s members and the groups that were invited to testify at their meetings. She also helped develop the early learning, community schools, and extended learning grant programs that the commission recommended and the state is in the early stages of executing.

Campos also helped draft legislation designed to force local districts to negotiate, submit, and implement their teacher evaluation plans.

Cuomo has not yet selected a replacement for Campos. She’ll begin her volunteer stint next week when the Education Reform Commission meets in Albany to discuss the issue of merging and restructuring small school districts, a controversial policy that often means jobs loss.

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