Kathyrn Wiley

Dr. Sonja Santelises

Superintendent, Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland

Throughout her career, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises has been guided by her core conviction, that – properly resourced and supported – every child can be successful, and that excellence in urban education is achievable at scale. She is now in her second term as Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), to which she was first appointed on July 1, 2016.

Early in her tenure Dr. Santelises launched “Building a Generation: City Schools’ Blueprint for Success” – a 5-year plan for realizing her vision for Baltimore City’s students. She established the first Office of Equity in Maryland in 2019, while also greatly expanding the role and resources dedicated to family and community engagement, as well as communications. Dr. Santelises also oversaw the opening of 24 new school buildings over six years under the 21st Century School Buildings Program – as well as the district’s first two “Net Zero” school buildings, which produce as much energy as they use every year. Dr. Santelises introduced new curriculum at both the K-8 and high school level, with an emphasis on building student knowledge that connects with their lived experiences.

Dr. Santelises had previously served as Chief Academic Officer for City Schools from 2010-2013. Prior to returning to Baltimore, she served for three years as vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization focused on closing the achievement gap. Prior to her arrival in Baltimore, Dr. Santelises was the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development in Boston Public Schools, where she subsequently served as the assistant superintendent of a network of 23 “pilot schools,” focused on improving the achievement of low-income students – and particularly students of color.

Dr. Santelises was a finalist for the 2020 Green-Garner Award, the nation's highest urban education honor recognizing outstanding contributions in urban education. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation and the Executive Committee of the Council of Great City Schools. Dr. Santelises was a founding board member of Ed Reports, and she is a board member of United Way of Central Maryland and Chiefs for Change.

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.