Leslie A. Cornfeld serves as Special Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, and Director of the Department’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. Prior to that she served as a fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Achievement Gap Initiative, after serving for 8 years as an advisor/consultant for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in NYC. She was previously a federal civil rights prosecutor. She is nationally recognized for designing and leading high profile, cross-sector efforts to tackle pressing social and community challenges.
Beginning with her work for Senator Daniel P. Moynihan in Washington DC over two decades ago, Ms. Cornfeld has established a track record of expertise in a variety of areas impacting vulnerable youth, including education, urban policy, civic engagement, and juvenile justice. As a federal prosecutor, Ms. Cornfeld led a series of large public corruption, police abuse, and human trafficking cases — resulting in her twice receiving the U.S. Attorney General’s Director’s Award for outstanding performance. Prior to that she was appointed Deputy Chief Counsel of the NYC Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption (the “Mollen Commission”) where she helped develop and lead investigations of alleged police corruption and brutality, and system failures – resulting in NYC’s creation of a permanent police oversight commission. She was a litigation associate at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Pierre N. Leval, SDNY (now U.S. 2nd Circuit).
Ms. Cornfeld has served as trustee on a number of non-profit and other boards, including the Children’s Defense Fund for over a decade; the Dalton School in NYC; the Hospital For Special Surgery; the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior; Harvard Law School Association NYC; and is founder of a public speaking program for East Harlem students, where she has served as a coach and mentor for many years. She has contributed articles and opinion pieces in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek magazine, NY Law Journal, and Huffington Post, has been featured on numerous national television and news segments in the areas of education, civic engagement and policing, and is a frequent speaker in these areas.
A proud graduate of the Florida public school system, she graduated from Harvard College, Phi Beta Kappa, and Harvard Law School.