Hanseul Kang was appointed DC State Superintendent of Education in February 2015. Kang previously served as Chief of Staff for the state of Tennessee’s Department of Education. A seasoned leader and former high school teacher, she reorganized and restructured the department to reflect strategic priorities, and created a more streamlined budget process that allowed for improved personnel decision-making and better use of resources. Kang was part of the team that implemented policies and offered support to districts and schools that resulted in Tennessee becoming one of the fastest improving states in the nation in student achievement outcomes.
Prior to joining Tennessee’s education department, Kang worked for Teach For America, where she was a managing director of program for the organization’s regional office in the District of Columbia. She led a team of program directors supporting middle and high school teachers in schools across the District and Prince George’s County. Kang holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Georgetown University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and was a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholar.
As superintendent of the sixth largest school district in the nation and second largest in Florida, with nearly 270,000 students in 238 schools, centers, and technical colleges, and more than 30,000 employees – Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie is committed to educating today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world.
Superintendent Runcie knows first-hand how a high-quality education can transform a person’s life. Born in Jamaica, he moved to the United States as a young boy and became the first member of his family to attend college, graduating from Harvard University and earning an MBA from Northwestern University. He later founded a management and technology consulting company, and held several strategic leadership positions with Chicago Public Schools, including serving as its Chief Information Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Area Instructional Officer, and Chief of Staff to the Board of Education.
Superintendent Runcie proudly joined Broward County Public Schools in 2011. With the support of a dynamic school board, Mr. Runcie developed a strategic plan for the district focusing on three key areas: high-quality instruction, continuous improvement, and more effective communications. Under his leadership, the district has increased its focus on ensuring students are college and career ready, and has implemented operational efficiencies that have allowed the district to reinvest millions of dollars back into classrooms to support student learning.
His commitment to collaborating with stakeholders and creating partnerships has earned Superintendent Runcie state and national recognition, including being named Florida’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Additional honors include being selected as the Florida Virtual School Superintendent of the Year, Consortium of Florida Education Foundations Superintendent of the Year, Champion District Superintendent of the Year for Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, Florida Department of Education’s District Data Leader of the Year Finalist, 2014 Leader to Learn From by Education Week, and 2015 Hispanic-Serving School District Superintendent of the Year. In 2015, Nova Southeastern University also awarded Superintendent Runcie with an honorary doctorate for his work in education.
Since being unanimously appointed as Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools in January 2009, Tom Boasberg has led the city’s efforts to accelerate the progress of its nearly 92,000 students and better serve the families of Denver. Over the past seven years, the district has posted record enrollment increases (with a higher rate of enrollment growth than any other major urban school district in the country) and increased its four-year graduation rate by over 25 percentage points.
Since the start of the Denver Plan, DPS has gone from being the district with the lowest rate of student academic growth among major Colorado districts to the district with the highest rate of academic achievement growth. The district has also more than tripled the number of its students taking and receiving college credit for Advanced Placement courses. It has cut its drop-out rate by more than 60%.
Denver has received national recognition during this time for its exceptional leadership development programs for teachers, school leaders, and principal supervisors; its school choice program (ranked number one nationally among major school districts by the Brookings Institution); its collaboration among district-run and charter schools; and its creation of promising new schools. During Boasberg’s time as Superintendent, the city has welcomed the creation of more than 75 new schools and the closure or turnaround of more than 30 underperforming schools.
Before DPS, Boasberg worked for eight years at Level 3 Communications, where he was Group Vice President for Corporate Development, responsible for the company’s mergers and acquisitions and strategic partnerships. He also served as legal advisor to Reed Hundt, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. At the FCC, he was responsible for devising policies and rules to open up the U.S. and international telecommunications markets to competition. He also played a leading role in the establishment of the E-Rate program, which provides over $2 billion a year to high-poverty schools across the country to pay for telecom and Internet services.
Prior to the FCC, he served for three years as Chief of Staff to Lee Chu-Ming, Chairman of Hong Kong’s largest political party, working on constitutional and political issues relating to Hong Kong’s change of sovereignty in 1997. A speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, he also worked as a junior high school English teacher in Hong Kong’s public schools and played semi-professional basketball in Hong Kong.
He earned a B.A. in History Summa Cum Laude from Yale College and J.D. with Distinction from Stanford Law School. At Yale, he was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar.
Superintendent Tommy Chang took over as leader of the Boston Public Schools on July 1, 2015. Nearly three months before officially starting as superintendent, Dr. Chang arrived in Boston and embarked on a “Listen and Learn Tour.” He and his transition team visited more than 30 schools across Boston and had meetings with over 1,500 community members. The team’s work laid the foundation for BPS’s 100-Day Plan, which calls for the creation of a “Culture of We” – a concept that embraces greater collaboration and two-way communication between the district’s staff and the students, families, and community members BPS serves at 125 schools. Dr. Chang’s work during his first year as Superintendent has included launching the Excellence for All Initiative, which aims to expand the Advanced Work Class accelerated curriculum program for 4th grade students. Operating through the lens of equity, Dr. Chang also announced the expansion of the Exam School Initiative preparatory program. The expansion of this prep program targets students from traditionally underrepresented schools who are seeking admission into the district’s three “exam schools.”
Prior to joining the Boston Public Schools, Dr. Chang served as the local instructional superintendent of the Intensive Support and Innovation Center (ISIC) at the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he oversaw 135 schools and approximately 95,000 students. Dr. Chang, a former biology teacher at Compton High School and a founding principal of a charter school in Venice, CA, also previously served as special assistant to the superintendent of LAUSD. A native of Taiwan who immigrated with his family to the U.S. at age six and grew up in L.A., Dr. Chang holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Loyola Marymount University, an M.Ed. from the Principals Leadership Institute at UCLA, an M.Ed. from the Teachers Education Program at UCLA, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Kunjan Narechania was appointed as CEO of the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) in 2017, where she oversees the unification of schools in New Orleans and statewide school improvement efforts under the Every Student Succeeds Act. She previously served as Chief Operating Officer for the Louisiana Department of Education. In this capacity, she was responsible for managing the internal operations at the Recovery School District in New Orleans and for leading the portfolio office at the Department. Prior to this role, she was the Vice President, Teacher Support and Development at Teach For America from 2009 to 2011, and she has held several other leadership positions within Teach For America in Chicago and in North Carolina since 2003. She started her career as a teacher in Durham, North Carolina, where, by her third year teaching, her students achieved the highest math scores at her school. She is part of the first cohort of Future Chiefs with Chiefs for Change. Narechania holds a Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology from the University of Illinois and currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Christopher D. Cerf currently serves as Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. He previously served as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education, in which capacity he oversaw 2,500 public schools, 1.4 million students, and 110,000 teachers across more than 600 school districts.
Between 2004 and 2009, Cerf was Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education where he led organizational strategy, innovation, labor relations, and all matters pertaining to recruiting, supporting, developing, and evaluating the nearly 80,000 teachers and 1,450 principals who work in the nation’s largest school district. Before assuming that role, he served as New York City Chancellor Joel Klein’s Chief Advisor on Transformation, where he led efforts to redesign the financial and organizational structure of the New York City Department of Education.
In the private sector, Cerf was President and Chief Operating Officer of Edison Schools, Inc., and Chief Executive Officer of Amplify Insight, which develops education software that supports more than 200,000 educators and 3 million K-12 students in all 50 states. He earlier served as Associate Counsel to President Clinton and as a partner in two Washington, DC, law firms. A graduate of Amherst College and Columbia Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review, Cerf also was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Prior to attending law school, he spent four years as a high school history teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Candice McQueen was sworn in as Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education in January 2015. During her first year as Commissioner, Dr. McQueen created a new strategic plan called Tennessee Succeeds. The comprehensive plan provides aligned goals, priorities, and strategies focused on increasing postsecondary and career readiness for Tennessee’s 1 million students. McQueen also connected with over 10,000 teachers on the Classroom Chronicles Tour, oversaw the transition to the state’s new assessment, TNReady, and saw the standard review process for math and English language arts through to completion. McQueen has worked to open lines of communication between the department and external stakeholders through the creation of a number of councils and stakeholder groups including the Assessment Task Force, Early Literacy Council, Career Forward Taskforce, and the department’s inaugural Parent and Student Advisory Councils.
Commissioner McQueen has focused on strengthening areas that support students’ long-term success, and through that lens she has worked alongside the governor and first lady of Tennessee to launch a statewide literacy campaign called Read to be Ready with a goal of 75 by 2025 – 75% of third graders reaching reading proficiency by 2025 – which includes multiple initiatives to strengthen early grades instruction through a statewide coaching network and providing summer learning opportunities for younger students who are not reading on grade level. She also worked with state leaders and the general assembly to pass the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee history. In addition, the Commissioner has deepened the department’s work in key areas through the transition to the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In that effort, she led the team at the department in building a transition plan that was based on feedback from thousands of Tennesseans statewide and capitalized on the successes and work underway. Through the ESSA plan, the department is going further to ensure all students can access opportunities throughout their K-12 education that prepare them for their next step, with a particular focus on making sure all high school graduates are truly ready for college and careers. The department is also increasing transparency on how all students and schools are performing by working with families and community members to create new user-friendly score reports and state report card website, which will include a variety of new dashboard metrics.
Prior to her appointment as Commissioner of Education, McQueen served as senior vice president and dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University. She began her career as a classroom teacher, teaching in both public and private elementary and middle schools. She also served as a higher education faculty member and department chair before being named dean in 2008. While at Lipscomb, McQueen served as a member of the university’s executive leadership team and oversaw both her college and the 1,300 pre-K-12th grade students in three schools at Lipscomb Academy. Under her leadership, Lipscomb’s college of education and teacher preparation program were consistently highlighted as one of the top teacher training programs in the state of Tennessee for quality and effectiveness based on the Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs and was most recently pointed out as the second highest ranking program in the nation by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Prior to joining Lipscomb University, Dr. McQueen was awarded multiple awards for both her teaching and the curriculum design of a new magnet school. Dr. McQueen has a Bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb, a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Veronica assumed her position as Chief Executive Officer at UP Education Network (UP), a high-performing school turnaround organization that serves over 3,200 students across Massachusetts, in July 2017. Prior to this, she served as Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan from 2014 to 2017. As Chancellor of the EAA, Veronica oversaw the 15 lowest-performing public schools in the City of Detroit, spearheading important improvements in those schools with over half of students achieving 1.5 or more years’ growth in reading and math during her tenure. And for over a decade, she served in senior leadership roles in the NYC Department of Education including as Chief Operating Officer overseeing a $23 billion budget and 130,000 employees. Veronica also worked as Vice President for the Access to Opportunity campaign at The College Board.
Paymon Rouhanifard serves as the Superintendent of the Camden City School District in Camden, New Jersey, appointed in August 2013 by Governor Chris Christie.
Rouhanifard started his career in New York City as a 6th -grade teacher at I.S. 195, a middle school in Harlem. He went on to serve in the New York City Department of Education, where he helped open new, high-quality district and charter schools, support the turnaround of struggling schools, and advocate for admission and enrollment changes that led to thousands more New York City students being better prepared for college and careers.
Prior to joining the NYC Department of Education, Rouhanifard worked in the financial sector as an investment banking analyst and private equity associate.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Deborah A. Gist is the Superintendent of Public Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Prior to July 2015, she was the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education. Before going to Rhode Island, Deborah served as the first State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia.
In 2008, Gist was a Broad Superintendents Academy Fellow. She serves on the executive committee of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and she is a founding member of Chiefs for Change.
In 2010, Gist was one of the Time 100, “the people who most affect our world,” and one of The Atlantic’s Brave Thinkers, whom the magazine recognizes for “the year’s most intrepid and original thinking.” In 2012, she was a winner of a Brian Bennett Education Warrior Award from Democrats for Education Reform.
She began her career in education 25 years ago as an elementary-school teacher in Fort Worth, TX, and, later, in Tampa, FL, where she conceived, designed, and initiated a literacy program serving families in 108 elementary schools in Hillsborough County.
Gist holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early-Childhood Education from the University of Oklahoma, a Master’s in Elementary Education and Curriculum from the University of South Florida, a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a Doctoral degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee began his work with the Indianapolis Public Schools in September of 2013, after serving the previous three years as Chief of Staff for Durham Public Schools.
Prior to this, the 16-year education veteran served as Regional Superintendent for Guilford County Schools in North Carolina where he also worked as an instructional improvement officer and school principal.
Ferebee’s extensive experience in attenuating the impact of poverty on academic achievement boasts strategic turnaround for struggling Title I schools, double-digit gains in End of Course Assessments for Biology, Algebra, and English, and aggressive reductions in the dropout rate with concurrent increases in the graduation rate as compared to state performance.
Ferebee earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University, a Master’s degree in School Administration from The George Washington University, and a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from North Carolina Central University.
Pedro Martinez joined San Antonio Independent School District as Superintendent in June 2015, bringing to the district a laser-like focus on improving academic achievement so that many more students are performing at higher levels and are well-prepared for college and career. In his first State of the District address in January 2016, he unveiled the district’s Blueprint for Excellence: Target 2020, which outlines the strategies that the district plans to use in achieving by the end of the 2019-2020 school year the 10 academic goals it has set. The plan is supported by five pillars: Academic Excellence, Talent Management, culture shift, stakeholder engagement, and fiscal management.
Before coming to San Antonio, Martinez was Superintendent-in-Residence for the Nevada Department of Education and was responsible for advising the governor’s office and the Superintendent of Public Instruction on education policy decisions. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent for the 64,000-student Washoe County School District, covering the Reno, Nevada area. While in Washoe County, Martinez improved graduation rates and increased the percentage of students participating in and passing Advanced Placement exams. He also previously served as Chief Financial Officer at Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, under the leadership of Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education. His employment history reflects that he is a data-driven leader with a strong financial background and in-depth knowledge of school improvement strategies.
Martinez has more than 20 years of experience in the private, nonprofit, and public education sectors. He holds an M.B.A. from DePaul University and a Bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.
Offering more than 35 years of vast experience in the field of education, Dr. Carey M. Wright is currently the State Superintendent of Education for Mississippi. She has served as the Chief Academic Officer for the District of Columbia Public Schools as well as the Deputy Chief for the Office of Teaching and Learning, providing leadership for PK-12 education by managing the offices of Curriculum and Instruction, Professional Development, Early Childhood Education, College and Career Readiness, Youth Engagement, Bilingual Education, Out of School Time, School Counseling, Educational Technology, Gifted and Talented, and Library Media Services. After implementing a policy requiring four Advanced Placement courses to be offered in all high schools, student participation increased more than 25% and the number of students passing at least one AP exam increased over 85%. The total number of AP exams receiving passing scores increased 64%. In addition, African-American student performance on AP exams increased 86%, and Hispanic student performance increased 184%.
From 2003 to 2009, Wright served as the Associate Superintendent for the Office of Special Education and Student Services for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. In this capacity, she was responsible for student services for 150,000 students and special education programming for 17,000 students with disabilities, managing a budget of $325 million, overseeing nonpublic placements and alternative programs, providing special education staffing for 200 schools, the provision of K-12 school counseling, psychological services, pupil personnel services, and the administration of the International Student Admission Office. Under Wright’s leadership, the percent of special education students being educated in the general education classroom increased from 53% to 67%. During the last four years of her tenure, special education student proficiency on state reading and math assessments increased between 13 and 34 points at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The biggest gains occurred in high schools, where student proficiency increased by 30 points in reading and 34 points in math.
Wright spent the majority of her career in Howard County Public Schools, also located in Maryland. In Howard County, Wright was a teacher, a principal for fifteen years, and the Director of Special Education and Student Services. She began her career as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland.
Wright has been recognized as an outstanding educator by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Systems, nominated twice for The Washington Post Outstanding Principal Award, and awarded the Howard County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator of the Year. She obtained her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park. She currently resides in Madison County, Mississippi.
Steve Canavero, Ph.D., is the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Nevada. He most recently served as the Deputy Superintendent of Student Achievement at the Nevada Department of Education and was previously the first director of the newly created State Public Charter School Authority. Canavero brings years of experience working in public education at the state and local level. He has a background in evaluation and planning and worked as a teacher and principal. A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Ecology and Systematic Biology, Canavero earned his M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno. When Canevero is not working, he can be found with his wife and two daughters on a lake or ski hill – weather dependent.
Malika Anderson is the Superintendent of the Achievement School District (ASD), where she oversees all schools, district-managed and charter-operated, to dramatically improve the performance and life outcomes of students in the bottom 5% performing Priority Schools across Tennessee. Under her leadership and in collaboration with parents and community members, the ASD has tripled in growth over the last three years, serving nearly 10,000 students in Memphis and Nashville. Through her focus on collaboration, mutual accountability, and empowered decision-making by educators who work most closely with students, Anderson has championed ASD and local school district efforts to improve the performance of all students in Priority Schools statewide. Students in Priority Schools are now growing four times faster than their peers across the state.
Anderson has nearly twenty years of strategy, leadership development, performance management, and operational redesign experience leading and consulting with organizations undergoing significant transformation efforts in schools, districts, social service agencies, and commercial organizations. She is an alumna of the Broad Center’s Leadership Residency in Urban Education and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Spelman College and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA.
Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto began as Superintendent of Hawaii schools on August 1, 2017. She previously served as the Superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools in Arizona, a district of 39,000 students. In both 2014 and 2015, GPS was named one of the top ten districts in the state as well as being voted best place to work in 2016.
Dr. Kishimoto is a student-centered, data-driven educational leader who believes in student and parent voice, and site-based empowerment for principals and teachers. She is a passionate advocate for public school systems, student-centered educational policies, and strategic planning based on quality, standards-based goals. In addition to pre-k-12 education, Dr. Kishimoto has experience in higher education and business.
During the 2014-15 school year, Dr. Kishimoto rolled out a board-adopted strategic operating plan focused on three high leverage strategy areas: scholarship, innovation, and technology. She has used these three high-impact approaches to refocus and rebrand the district.
Dr. Kishimoto is recognized nationally as a visionary leader in education and for her educational reform work in school turnaround and portfolio school development. She serves as the President of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS), the nation’s premier Latino-driven educational leadership organization for school administrators and superintendents. She is also a member of the Arizona Association of School Administrators. Dr. Kishimoto earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Connecticut and a Doctorate from Columbia University. In June 2014, she completed two years of board service for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, an organization focused on student-centered practices and policies.
In December of 2010, Governor Susana Martinez nominated Hanna Skandera to lead New Mexico’s public education system of over 830 schools and more than 330,000 students.
From the start, with Governor Martinez’s support, Secretary Skandera’s vision for the students of New Mexico has been unwavering: to ensure that every child, regardless of background, is provided with the opportunity to receive a world-class education in New Mexico’s public schools. Her conviction that all children have the potential to achieve and to excel has fueled her passion for reforming the educational opportunities that New Mexico students and families have today.
Prior to her most recent position as New Mexico’s education Chief, Secretary Skandera’s record of service in the education sector includes serving as Florida’s Deputy Commissioner of Education for former Governor Jeb Bush, senior policy advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education under former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and Undersecretary for Education for former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in addition to teaching Education Policy courses at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.
She has also served as CEO of Laying the Foundation, a national teacher training program for English, math, and science teachers in grades 6-12. Secretary Skandera earned a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University, a Bachelor’s in Business from Sonoma State University, and was a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Christopher Ruszkowski was named Acting Secretary of Education in New Mexico in July 2017. He first joined Governor Susana Martinez, Secretary Hanna Skandera, and the New Mexico Public Education Department in April 2016 as Deputy Secretary, Policy & Program. In this role, he oversaw the state’s academic priorities, policy agenda, and research agenda. His portfolio of work included state standards and assessments, school accountability, school turnaround, educator quality, college & career readiness, early childhood/early literacy, and charter schools. In 2017, he co-led the development of the NM state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—which has been nationally recognized as one of the best state plans in the country.
Previously, Ruszkowski served for six years at the Delaware Department of Education under Governor Jack Markell, building the Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit as Chief Talent Officer/Associate Secretary and co-leading the implementation of the state’s Race to the Top plan under President Barack Obama. He collaborated with districts and charter schools across the state in developing their local activities, launched multiple innovative programs with non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education, and worked with the Professional Standards Board and State Board of Education in constructing policy frameworks. During his tenure in Delaware, his team focused on improving policies and practices across the educator effectiveness continuum: educator preparation, licensure/certification, recruitment, placement, evaluation, professional learning, and teacher-leader career pathways. Throughout his time in Dover, the state invested significant resources in job-embedded coaching for principals and school-based professional learning for educators, including protected time for teacher collaboration and multiple new teacher-leadership opportunities.
Born in Chicago, Ruszkowski (or “CR”) is a first-generation American whose father arrived in the U.S. in 1950. He is the product of K-12 public schools, and began his education career as a middle school social studies teacher and basketball coach at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Miami, FL. He then worked in a variety of district, non-profit, and charter school contexts, supporting and training novice teachers through Teach For America, working within Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Louisiana Recovery School District with TNTP, and serving within the San Francisco Unified School District as a Fellow with Education Pioneers. Ruszkowski attended the University of Minnesota on an Evans Scholarship and holds a B.A. in Political Science. He holds an M.A. in Educational Policy, Organizational, and Leadership Studies from Stanford University.
Dr. Sonja B. 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 Baltimore schools after serving for three years as vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, a Washington, DC-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 Baltimore 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 Baltimore.
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. She 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.
Named Commissioner of Education in December 2016, Dr. Katy Anthes is widely respected for her commitment to listening to diverse perspectives and developing solutions that are founded on productive middle ground. Keeping students’ best interests as her top priority, she focuses on providing high-quality support to districts and educators working to enhance student outcomes.
Dr. Anthes has been with the Colorado Department of Education since 2011, serving as interim Commissioner, Chief of Staff, Interim Commissioner for Achievement and Strategy, and Executive Director of Educator Effectiveness. In that role, she led the state’s effort to evaluate, support, and retain highly effective educators in Colorado. In addition, Dr. Anthes was responsible for rolling out the state’s educator evaluation and development system, pursuant to Senate Bill 10-191.
In her past position as a partner with the Third Mile Group, Anthes led and researched major education initiatives for state, district, and national organizations on a variety of education issues and projects, including the Colorado School Leadership Academy Board, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission, and several district education programs across the state. Anthes also worked alongside numerous national education organizations, such as the Council for Chief State School Officers, the National Governor’s Association, the National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, American Institutes for Research, and many more.
Prior to founding the Third Mile Group, she had seven years of research, policy, and leadership experience at Education Commission of the States, focusing on school and district leader effectiveness. Anthes holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Colorado Denver. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon. Anthes lives in Denver and is an avid runner and soccer enthusiast.
Upon being appointed Commissioner of Education, Dr. Anthes became Colorado’s first female commissioner in 65 years, preceded only by the state’s inaugural commissioner Nettie S. Freed in 1950-51.
John White was named Louisiana State Superintendent of Education in January of 2012. That year he launched Louisiana Believes, the state’s plan to ensure every child is on track to college or a professional career. In the time since, White has worked to unify the state’s fragmented early childhood system, to modernize expectations for students, to empower teachers, to guarantee economic opportunity for high school graduates, and to provide families with expansive school options.
Since 2011, Louisiana’s high school graduation rate has risen by 3.2 percentage points. Roughly 5,000 more graduates annually achieve a college-going ACT score than did in 2011. Louisiana is now the nation’s fastest-improving state on Advanced Placement tests, increasing the number of students earning passing scores by 50 percent in that time. And the number of students entering college has grown by more than 3,100 – a 16 percent increase.
Prior to being named State Superintendent, White served as Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, overseeing the nation’s first system of publicly-funded charter and non-public schools in New Orleans and launching the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone to replicate successes in New Orleans.
Prior to moving to Louisiana, White worked in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. While in New York he served as Deputy Chancellor, launching the Innovation Zone, a network of 100 21st Century schools that use technology to personalize student learning, and leading the city’s efforts to turn around more than 100 failing schools and start 500 new charter and district schools.
White previously served as Executive Director of Teach For America–Chicago and Teach For America–New Jersey. He began his career as an English teacher at William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. White received a B.A. in English with distinction from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University.
Desmond K. Blackburn, Ph.D., was born to his parents, Desmond and Diana, in Mt. Vernon, New York. In 1988, his parents moved him and his sister to Lauderhill, FL. He attended Piper High School where he excelled academically and athletically. Dr. Blackburn was involved in radio broadcasting, Key Club, track & field, basketball, and the Academy of Finance. After graduating from Piper in 1992, he matriculated to the University of Florida where he was a member of Beta Eta Sigma and Black Honor Society, coached high school basketball, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
In 1996, he returned to South Florida and began teaching math at Plantation High School. While teaching math, he also coached basketball and track. He quickly became known as a firm, yet fair educator. While teaching and coaching, he took classes at night and on the weekends to earn a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Nova-Southeastern University. In March 2000 he became an Assistant Principal at Sunrise Middle School.
In July 2003, he became the Principal of Ramblewood Middle School. His tenure at Ramblewood Middle School ended in 2007. At that time, and under his leadership, the school was the only middle school in the district to have earned an A grade and make Adequate Yearly Progress every year since the inception of No Child Left Behind. In 2006, Ramblewood Middle School was recognized as one of the top 75 middle schools in the state. In that same year, he earned a Doctorate of Philosophy from Florida Atlantic University, where he has gone on to become an Adjunct Professor in Educational Leadership.
Since then, Dr. Blackburn served Broward County Public Schools as a District Trainer, Director of School Improvement, Area Superintendent, and Chief School Performance & Accountability Officer. In July 2015, he became the Superintendent of Brevard County Schools.
In 2011, the National Association of Black Student Educators, Broward Chapter, recognized him as an “Administrative Outlier.” In 2013, the Upsilon Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., honored him as a “Father Who Makes a Difference.” In 2014, Legacy Magazine recognized him as one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Business Leaders,” and the Broward Education Foundation recognized him as a “Distinguished Alumni” of the Broward County school system. His fraternal affiliations include the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He and his wife, Kelli, just celebrated their 18th anniversary and have two sons, Dean and Grant.
With a focus on equity, innovation, and quality, Dr. William R. Hite, Jr. serves as Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, the largest public school system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Since joining the district in June 2012, Dr. Hite has worked to create a system of great schools in every neighborhood. Under his leadership, the School District has opened new innovative high schools, expanded successful school models, launched in-district turnarounds, and redesigned schools in partnership with communities. His overall focus remains on strengthening all elementary and secondary school offerings.
Dr. Hite’s professional experience includes serving at every level – teacher, principal, central office administrator, and superintendent. He was previously Superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland where his central work focused on enhanced access and rigor to ensure college- and career-readiness. Prince George’s County schools, one of the 25 largest systems in the United States, received national recognition for expanding access to Advanced Placement courses during his tenure. Dr. Hite also served as an Assistant Superintendent in Georgia’s Cobb County School District. In addition, as an administrator in Henrico County, Virginia, he led Highland Springs High School to “Best Practices” honors from the state’s General Assembly.
Dr. Hite has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Richmond School of Continuous Learning and taught school leadership courses at Virginia State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland. A member of numerous national, state, and local boards, he has participated in national initiatives and associations to reform K-12 education. Dr. Hite holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Virginia Tech, Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Virginia, and a Doctorate in Education, specializing in educational leadership, from Virginia Tech. He and his wife Deirdre have two daughters and a grandson.
Dr. Barbara Jenkins has been dedicated to serving the needs of students for more than 25 years. She was named Superintendent for Orange County Public Schools in 2012.
Under Dr. Jenkins’ leadership, the district won the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The prize earned half-a-million dollars for student scholarships from the prestigious Broad Foundation. The district also received the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2014 and again in 2015. The award is highly regarded for its recognition of organizations that exemplify performance excellence in Florida. For three of the last five years, OCPS was named to the AP District Honor Roll by the College Board for increasing access to Advanced Placement course work while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP exams.
As the former Deputy Superintendent for Orange County, Jenkins served as the Superintendent’s designee and oversaw five area superintendents and the division of Teaching and Learning. In her prior tenure as Chief of Staff, she also oversaw Human Resources, Public Relations, Labor Relations, Strategic Planning, and served as the chief negotiator for the district.
Dr. Jenkins is serving as President of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents for school year 2015-16. In 2014, she was named the Visionary Award recipient by the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council and the Central Florida Woman of the Year by the Women’s Executive Council.
Recognized for her commitment and influence, both the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Magazine have recognized her as one of the 10 most powerful people in Central Florida; Orlando Magazine ranked her number five in 2015, up from number 10 in 2014. In November 2015, the Orlando Business Journal honored her as a 2015 CEO of the Year.
Deeply engaged in the community, Dr. Jenkins serves on the boards of the United Arts of Central Florida, Winter Park Health Foundation, Economic Development Commission, YMCA of Central Florida, Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness, and Orange County Youth Mental Health Commission.
Robert M. Avossa, E.D., was named Superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County in June 2015. The Palm Beach County School District is the 11th largest district in the country with a student enrollment of more than 183,000 students. The annual budget exceeds $2.3 billion and the district is the largest employer in Palm Beach County with over 21,000 employees.
During his first year, he has engaged stakeholders in a comprehensive strategic planning process involving over 15,000 interaction points through meetings, focus groups, and survey responses. Informed by this work, he directed over $5.5 million to the district’s neediest schools. He has also reorganized the district structure to better align with the needs of schools and students.
Prior to joining the Palm Beach County district, Dr. Avossa served as Superintendent of the Fulton County Schools from June 2011 through June 2015. Dr. Avossa was responsible for the leadership, administration, and management of approximately 96,000 students, 101 schools, 14,000 employees, and a $1.4 billion dollar budget. For the first time in Fulton’s history, the district received a “Triple A” bond rating from Moody’s, the highest for a government body.
Under Dr. Avossa’s four years at the helm, Fulton County Schools achieved dramatic academic gains, earning the district the highest graduation rate of Georgia’s large school systems. Additionally, their students scored the second highest average SAT scores in the state, with 85% of seniors taking the test, which is twice the national average.
• The graduation rate increased from 70.1% to 85.3%, while the dropout rate decreased from 24.3% to 11.9%.
• The African-American graduation rate increased from 58.2% to 67.7%, while the dropout rate decreased from 34.1% to 17.3%.
• The Hispanic graduation rate increased from 54.3% to 62.1%, while the dropout rate decreased from 36.8% to 24.8%.
• The Caucasian graduation rate increased from 86.6% to 92.2%, while the dropout rate decreased from 10.5% to 4.3%.
Before coming to Fulton County Schools, Dr. Avossa served as Chief Strategy and Accountability Officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, one of the largest school systems in the country. In that role, he led the district in driving key performance management initiatives. He also served as Area Superintendent and as Chief of Staff, both of which resulted in significant student achievement improvement; and before that, spent more than a decade in Florida as a teacher and principal.
Being active and involved in the community is a priority for Dr. Avossa. He has served on many non-profit boards throughout his career and is a current board member for the American Heart Association, CareerSource Palm Beach County, Children’s Services Council, Criminal Justice Commission, and Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.
Dr. Avossa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Education and Behavior Disorders as well as a Master’s in Special Education, both from the University of South Florida, and a Doctorate from Wingate University. He also is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, an advanced executive development program that identifies and prepares experienced leaders to successfully run large urban public education systems.
Dr. Avossa and his wife, Kellee, have two children who attend Palm Beach County public schools.
Antwan Wilson became Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS) in February 2017, assuming leadership of the fastest-improving urban school district in the country. Prior to joining DCPS, Chancellor Wilson was Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). During his tenure, OUSD saw increased graduation rates, decreases in out-of-school discipline, a decade-high investment in teacher pay, and historic improvements in district operations. His commitment to collaborating with partners across the city earned OUSD national recognition for work on the Oakland Promise, a cradle-to-career initiative aimed at tripling the number of college graduates from Oakland, and the Equity Pledge, an emerging partnership between district and charter leaders to create a more equitable school experience for all Oakland children.
Until 2014, Chancellor Wilson served as Assistant Superintendent for Post Secondary Readiness in the Denver Public Schools (DPS), where he was responsible for middle schools, high schools, and alternative schools. During his tenure, DPS experienced significant improvements in graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and AP course participation and performance. He led the development of the district’s Intensive Pathways options, which provide additional supports for struggling students to set them up for success in college and career.
Chancellor Wilson brings extensive school-level experience to his work. He began his career as a middle and high school teacher in Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina, before leading schools as a high school and middle school principal in Denver and Wichita. He graduated with distinction from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a degree in History-Social Science Education and minors in Women’s Studies and Minority Studies. He holds an advanced degree in School Leadership from Friends University and is a graduate of The Broad Academy for urban school system leaders. Chancellor Wilson and his wife, who is a career educator, have three children who attend DC Public Schools.