Sonja Brookins Santelises
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises has spent close to 30 years focused on building high-quality teaching and learning to help students excel, including her tenure as chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools from 2010 to 2013. She returns to City Schools after serving for three years as vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on closing the achievement gap experienced disproportionately by African American, Latino, and Native students and students from low-income families.
Dr. Santelises first came to City Schools from Boston, where she was the assistant superintendent for pilot schools, a network of 23 schools with broad autonomy and a track record of successfully meeting students’ needs and improving the achievement of low-income students, particularly students of color. Prior to the pilot schools post, she was assistant superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development in Boston.
Before joining Boston Public Schools, Dr. Santelises lectured on urban education for two years at Harvard University and spent six years as a senior associate with Focus on Results Inc., where she coached superintendents and trained school leaders in five major urban districts. Prior to that, she served as executive director of the New York City Algebra Project, the local site of the acclaimed national math reform program, also present in City Schools.
Dr. Santelises began her career in education as director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America (New York). She then served as a teacher and curriculum specialist at Decatur Clearpool School, a year-round school in Brooklyn, where she oversaw the founding of the middle school.
Throughout her career as an educator, academic, and administrator, Dr. Santelises has been steadfast in her belief that excellence in urban education is achievable at scale. “Our students have the same capacity for success as any other children,” she says. “We must communicate and demonstrate our complete confidence in that capacity, by charting a pathway to success for each individual child. The real challenge is ours – as educators – to hold ourselves and our students accountable for their achievement.”
Dr. Santelises is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University. She holds a Master of Arts degree in education administration from Columbia University and a Doctor of Education in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University. She has lived in Baltimore with her husband and three daughters since 2010.
Dr. Santelises was named chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools effective July 1, 2016.