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Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced more political appointees that will lead various parts of the agency. These diverse and accomplished individuals will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the agency, and work to quickly advance key education priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration.
Katy Neas, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Katy Neas previously served as senior vice president of public affairs at APTA. In this role, she oversees APTA’s federal and state government public policy activities, federal regulatory affairs, grassroots and political action efforts, public relations along with payment and practice management activities. Prior to joining APTA, Mrs. Neas spent 23 years at Easterseals, a national nonprofit provider of direct services to children and adults with disabilities and their families. Her roles at Easterseals included service on the senior management team, federal and state government relations advocacy, oversight of federal grants and contracts and management of the Easterseals Office of Public Affairs. A long-time disability rights ally, she began her career on the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy during the development and enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A graduate of Georgetown University, she hails from Des Moines, Iowa.
Toby Merrill, Deputy General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
Toby Merrill previously founded and directed the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and taught the predatory lending and consumer protection clinic. The Project represents low-income student loan borrowers in litigation against for-profit colleges and against the policies that enable them. The Project brings cases that enforce the rights of student loan borrowers and works closely with numerous state and federal enforcement agencies. Toby has twice represented legal aid providers and their clients in the Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking process. She also served on the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure’s advisory board on private occupational schools. Toby joined the Legal Services Center’s predatory lending practice as a Skadden Fellow, after a federal clerkship. She graduated from Harvard Law School and Yale College.
Hayley Matz Meadvin, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary
Hayley Matz Meadvin joins the U.S. Department of Education with broad experience that spans the public and private sectors, and a career that has focused on the intersection of public policy and communications. In the public sector, Hayley served as chief communications officer for Chicago Public Schools, communications director in the White House for Dr. Jill Biden, and as press secretary and deputy communications director for the U.S. Small Business Administration during the Obama administration. In the private sector, Hayley was most recently a director at Precision Strategies, where she worked with national advocacy campaigns, corporate, and non-profit clients to raise awareness of key issues and effect positive change. Hayley, a graduate of Tulane University and Penn State Law, lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband, David, their two young children, and two dogs.
Chris Soto, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary
Chris Soto joins the U.S. Department of Education after serving as the director of innovation and partnerships at the Connecticut State Department of Education. Chris held previous roles in state government as the Lamont Administration’s director of legislative affairs and served as state representative for New London, Connecticut, in the Connecticut General Assembly. Following his active-duty service in the U.S. Coast Guard, Chris founded and led Higher Edge, a college-access organization that serves first-generation college-bound students on their postsecondary journeys. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Brown University and a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor for ARP Implementation, Office of Postsecondary Education
Antoinette Flores most recently served as the managing director for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress. While there, her work focused on improving higher education quality, accountability, equity, and data to ensure that all students could access, afford, and complete high-quality degrees. Antoinette is a first-generation college graduate, Pell recipient, and holds degrees from Amherst College and George Mason University. She lives in Virginia and is a native of Chicago, Illinois.
Deven Comen, Chief of Staff, Office of Communications and Outreach
Deven Comen is an activator and strategist with experience serving in the classroom, with federal government agencies, and across the national education landscape. Most recently, Deven led external partnerships for College Board Opportunity Scholarships, a $25 million digital product that guides ~1million students annually through key college planning tasks such as completing the FAFSA. Earlier, she was the founding chief of staff for the College Board’s College & Career Access division. Deven previously advised public sector clients including the Obama White House as a Deloitte consultant. Deven started her career as a special education teacher at Anacostia Senior High School in Washington, D.C., through Teach for America. A first-generation college graduate and Pell recipient, Deven holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in education from George Mason University.
Abel McDaniels, Special Assistant, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Abel McDaniels most recently worked as a community school director in New York City. In that role, he designed and implemented the community school strategy in a public elementary school. Previously, he worked as a K-12 education research associate at the Center for American Progress. Abel began his career as a social studies teacher in western Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.