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Thurmond Appoints Three New Department Heads at CDE

January 26, 2019

Recently elected state officials often bring in their own team to help run the agency, and newly-sworn-in State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has recently appointed several new department heads at the California Department of Education:


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced on January 17 that he has appointed a new Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Government Affairs Division.

Khieem Jackson will lead the Government Affairs Division and serve as CDE’s liaison with local, state, and federal elected officials and government agencies. Jackson brings a wealth of expertise to CDE, with a diverse background in federal, state, and local government advocacy, along with extensive international experience as an officer in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

“I am thrilled to have Khieem Jackson join our team as Deputy Superintendent of Government Affairs,” Thurmond said. “He is a strong advocate for students who need the most assistance, and brings invaluable insight from throughout the world supporting service members and their families.”

Jackson recently served as Director of Government Relations for the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), where he provided executive level policy and legislative guidance on critical issues such as curriculum, transportation, and energy. While at SDUSD, Jackson also advocated for career technical education incentive grants and increased support for school districts with refugee students.

Prior to SDUSD, Jackson served as Director of Federal Legislative Affairs with the USMC in Oceanside. In that role, Jackson worked with Governor Brown’s office to establish a monitoring process to measure the educational success of military students and advised military leadership on State education bills.

This came after Jackson served as Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs to the U.S. House of Representative for the Marine Corps. In that role, he traveled to more than 75 countries in nearly five years, on numerous occasions meeting with heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and U.S. Department of State ambassadors and staff.

As CDE’s Deputy Superintendent of Government Affairs, Jackson will be responsible for the administration of all departmental activities relating to state and federal legislation. Jackson replaces former Division Director Debra Brown, who is now the Director of Education and Government Relations at Children Now in Sacramento.


On January 23, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that he has appointed Keith Yamanaka as Chief Counsel for California Department of Education (CDE). His branch, the Legal and Audits Branch, oversees the Audits and Investigations Division and provides legal advice and representation to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, CDE, and State Board of Education.

Yamanaka will both lead the Legal and Audits Branch and serve as CDE’s delegate at the CalSTRS Retirement Board. He has a diverse background in legal and executive leadership at a number of state agencies including the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) and the former California Department of Health Services.

“I am excited to have Keith join our CDE team, where he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise,” Thurmond said. “He is a strong leader and manager and will help the CDE carry out our official duties and policy goals to help all students succeed.”

Yamanaka most recently served as Chief Deputy Director and Chief Legal Officer to the CSAC, a state department responsible for distributing $2 billion in student financial aid statewide and serving over 450,000 low-income students and families annually, primarily through the Cal Grant Program. There, he also helped implement the California Dream Act Application and the Middle Class Scholarship.

Prior to CSAC, Yamanaka was Chief Advisor and Acting Chief Deputy at the former California Department of Corporations, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel at the former California Department of Health Services, Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, and Staff Counsel to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Yamanaka has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences—Community Development from the University of California, Davis and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He later earned a master’s degree in law in Business and Taxation from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.


On January 18, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that he has appointed Kindra Britt as Director of Communications for the California Department of Education (CDE).

Britt heads a division that handles internal and external communications, including media activities to support State Superintendent Thurmond, and CDE as a whole. She replaces outgoing Director Bill Ainsworth.

Britt most recently served as Community Affairs Director for the Placer County Office of Education, where she started nearly 12 years ago as a Career Technical Education Instructor. Britt brings a unique perspective to her new role at CDE, having previously served in the classroom. In addition to her work in Placer County, over the last few months, she was on loan to Butte County as a Public Information Officer to assist Paradise Unified School District (PUSD) during the aftermath of the catastrophic Camp Fire. She managed media relations from all over the world in response to the devastation caused by the fire. PUSD had 3,500 students displaced after the fire, and Britt helped support the district in communications to first locate families and then provide them with vital information for recovery efforts and the return to school.

“I am pleased to have such an experienced, passionate, and energetic new member on the CDE team,” Thurmond said. “Kindra brings tremendous knowledge and dedication to public education, and I know this will align with my priorities as we hit the ground running in 2019.”

In addition to her great work at Placer County Office of Education, Britt has also served on the board for the California School Public Relations Association and is currently president-elect. Her network of school communicators throughout the state will serve as a benefit to CDE and her new role.

Born and raised in California, Britt is a proud public school graduate from Nevada County as well as a graduate of Sierra Community College. She later earned a B.S. in Kinesiology at California State University, Chico and a M.A. in Sport Management at California State University, Long Beach.

Source: California Department of Education

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