Sonja Santelises

Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools


KEYNOTE – Leadership & Equity: Addressing Educational Redlining

There are currently numerous conversations about equity in education and our need to address the inequities that exist in classrooms, schools, and districts. If we are going to remove these inequities, we must get real about the opportunity gaps that result from the choices that adults make at every level of our education system. In this session, Dr. Sonja Santelises will speak about leading Baltimore City Public Schools through a review of the materials, practices, and opportunities it provides to students and determining whether the district is providing those resources in an equitable way. In one example of this, City Schools partnered with experts to look at the rigor and relevance of the content and curriculum being provided in the district’s classrooms. Much of what the review found was heartbreaking: the curriculum was failing students and teachers in general, and it was increasing knowledge gaps in particular for students of color and low-income students. The district showed its willingness to solve this problem by getting high-quality, standards-aligned, and culturally relevant materials, but even with these materials, the work is far from done, as some teachers are taking students right up to the point of engaging in rigorous independent thinking and doing, and then turning away from that rigor. Dr. Santelises will discuss how looking at and combating this “educational red-lining” will pave the path for truly equitable educational outcomes for students.


Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises has been the Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools since 2016 and has spent nearly 30 years focused on accelerating student outcomes so that all students can lead and thrive. She began her tenure at City Schools as Chief Academic Officer from 2010-13 and then served as the VP for K-12 Policy & Practice at The Education Trust before returning to Baltimore as the CEO. Dr. Santelises lectured on urban education for two years at Harvard University. She is a graduate of Brown University and holds an M.A. in Education Administration from Columbia University as well as an Ed.D. in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University.