LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has chosen a former  Santa Ana schools superintendent and Obama administration education official as  his top education advisor, a key appointment in his evolving relationship with  the Los Angeles Unified School District, it was reported today.

In an unusual arrangement, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, 55, will be  hired through the LAUSD so she can continue to accrue benefits in the state  teachers retirement system, the Los Angeles Times reported. The cost of her  employment will be covered by the city.

Melendez headed the Orange County district, among the state's largest  school systems, for two years until her recent surprise retirement. She has  said the commute was difficult, with the rest of her family located in Los  Angeles, The Times reported.

When she announced her departure, the school board praised her  performance. She had developed a broad strategic plan, including a rapid  transition to new learning standards adopted by the state, according to the  newspaper.

From 2009 to 2011, she served as assistant secretary for elementary and  secondary schooling in the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, she  headed Pomona Unified for about three years.

In Los Angeles, her title will be director of education and workforce  development. Besides providing guidance on matters affecting L.A. Unified, she  will also be a liaison with local colleges and businesses to improve the  connections between education and job training, according to The Times.

The structure of her contract requires the approval of the Los Angeles  Board of Education.