Deb Delisle was nominated by President Obama in January 2012 and confirmed as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education by the U.S. Senate on April 27, 2012. In this position, she plays a pivotal role in policy and management issues affecting elementary and secondary education. She directs, coordinates and recommends policy for programs designed to assist state and local education agencies with improving the achievement of elementary and secondary school students. She helps ensure equal access to services leading to improvement for all children, particularly children who are economically disadvantaged. She fosters education improvement at the state and local levels and oversees federal financial assistance to state and local education agencies. She also serves as the principal adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Education on all matters related to pre-K, elementary and secondary education.
Prior to her role at the Department, Delisle was a senior fellow with the International Center for Leadership in Education, with a deep interest in educator performance systems and creating transformative cultures in schools and districts to support educators and students. Prior to that work, Delisle served as Ohio's 35th state superintendent of public instruction from 2008-11. Delisle's career in education spans 37 years, serving as a teacher, gifted education specialist, curriculum director, elementary school principal, and a district associate superintendent and superintendent. She has worked tirelessly to advocate for high quality learning experiences for all children and has spent a significant portion of her career working in urban settings. As the state superintendent of Ohio, Delisle was instrumental in leading the development of a successful application for a U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top grant that secured $400 million to boost student achievement through innovative programs. By engaging more than 100 stakeholders and 70 organizations in the development of the statewide strategy and working collaboratively with teachers' unions, Ohio created its successful application, calling for statewide reforms in educator preparation, the infusion of college- and career-ready standards, rigorous assessments, greater accountability and turning around the lowest performing schools.
Delisle was a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Executive Board and held several leadership positions with CCSSO, including cochair of the Human Capital Subcommittee and member of CCSSO's subcommittees on ESEA reauthorization and early childhood. She also served on the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education's Executive Board and the governing boards of the Midwest Regional Educational Laboratory and the Minority Student Achievement Network. Throughout her career, Delisle has been actively engaged in the work of a number of organizations, including the International Center for Leadership in Education, the National Association for Gifted Children, the Greater Cleveland School Superintendents' Association and the Greater Cleveland Educational Development Center.
Creativity and innovation define Delisle's career. Closing achievement gaps and the digital divide have long been areas of significant interest to her. As a district superintendent, Delisle designed a one-to-one laptop program, making laptops a reality for every grade 6-12 student, which transformed teaching and learning in a wireless environment. Delisle also championed high school reform and successfully transformed a comprehensive high school into five small learning communities. Such innovations yielded significant academic growth and high graduation rates for students of color and those living in poverty. As a result of her work," eSchool News" named Delisle one of its Tech Savvy Superintendents in 2008. She has received many other honors, including the Betsy Cowles Women in Leadership Award, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators Distinguished Service Award, the Ohio Education Association Vision Award, and being named as one of the most influential people of University Heights (OH). In August 2011 the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District honored Delisle by dedicating a school as the Deborah S. Delisle Education Options Center to recognize her lifetime of service to students.