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.
Dr. Rob Anderson is a passionate and dedicated educator with deep experience at every level of public education over the last two decades. As a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and an administrator, Rob has devoted his career to ensuring that every student gets the same kind of opportunity that allowed him to thrive.
In his most recent role as Deputy Superintendent of Academics in Fulton County, Georgia, Rob helped lead a district that has narrowed achievement gaps in the graduation rate, increased college and career readiness for students of all ages, improved ACT performance for four consecutive years, and expanded opportunities for Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment for all students.
Rob’s passion for public education is rooted in his own experience. Growing up in poverty in a small town in Florida, Rob saw firsthand the power of education to change lives. After graduating from the University of Central Florida, Rob knew he wanted to give other students the support and opportunity his teachers gave him. He started his career as a Title I math and science teacher in Orlando, Florida, rising through the ranks of the Orange County (FL) Public School system to eventually serve as a department chair, administrative dean, assistant principal, and principal.
As principal at Lake Nona High School, Rob led the development of challenging, engaging programs that set all students up for success in higher education and the career of their choice. Among them: a Collegiate Academy that allowed students to have earned an Associates Degree when they graduated high school, a Health Career Pathway that provided students the ability to earn industry certification upon graduation, and an International Scholars program designed to prepare English Language learners for the rigors of college.
Rob was drawn to Boulder Valley School District by the shared commitment to the core values of equity and excellence. He looks forward to building on the hard work of Boulder Valley’s students, families, and educators to continue improving outcomes for all students while closing opportunity gaps.
Rob, his wife Jessica, and their two children are excited to join the Boulder Valley community.
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.
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.
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.
A champion for children committed to helping every student reach his or her unlimited potential, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk has a track record of success in urban school districts that spans two decades. With teaching and leadership experience at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in some of the nation’s largest and most impoverished school districts, Caulk has consistently advanced policies and procedures based on research and best practices to create systems of high expectations and accountability, organizational and governance structures, and metrics to define results.
In his first year at the helm of the second-largest school district in Kentucky, Caulk launched an entry plan that included five external audits, site visits to every school and program, and listening sessions and surveys that drew input from more than 12,750 students, staff, families, and community partners. His resulting “Blueprint for Student Success: Achieving Educational Excellence and Equity for All,” outlined 100 specific strategies in eight pillars of focus that were completed during the 2016-17 school year. The community was able to track progress and hold leaders accountable through a first-of-its-kind online monitoring tool.
Under Caulk’s leadership, the district developed its first strategic plan in a decade, worked in partnership with local business leaders to redesign its high schools through the Ford Next Generation initiative, launched an intentional volunteer campaign called “Give 10,” placed education in the center of community discourse through a highly successful Superintendent’s Book Club, and was the first school district in Kentucky to establish a grant-funded Office for Educating Boys of Color with an intentional focus on meeting the needs of primarily black and Hispanic male students.
In March 2017, the Kentucky Department of Education conducted its fourth and most exhaustive audit of the district in as many years, including 8,691 surveys, 180 classroom observations, site visits to 12 schools in the district, interviews with nearly 200 students, teachers, principals, district administrators, school board members, parents and community members, and the review of more than 1,200 pieces of evidence.
After the review, KDE issued its report concluding that Caulk “has brought stability to the district,” highlighting dozens of accomplishments from the Blueprint for Student Success and affirming that the district has “capacity” to lead future improvements.
Before joining FCPS in August 2015, Caulk had served as superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Maine’s largest school district, since 2012. He previously was an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, serving 167,000 students. He also was assistant regional superintendent and deputy chief for the office of instruction and leadership support, and was assistant superintendent for high schools of the 46,000-student East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
Caulk’s experience in education includes time spent as a special education teacher in a juvenile detention facility, an elementary principal, and a high school principal. He also practiced law, serving as an education law attorney and former assistant prosecutor for the state of New Jersey.
Caulk earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Widener University School of Law. He is completing his doctoral degree in education.
A passionate advocate for providing high quality education to all children, Dr. Sharon L. Contreras made history in August 2016 when she was sworn-in as the first woman, first person of Latina heritage, and the second African American Superintendent of Guilford County Schools. From the moment she took on her new role, Dr. Contreras has been singularly focused on one goal – to ensure that every student graduates college and career ready.
Her first 100 days have been characterized by a spirit of collaboration and measured action, reflective of her lifetime of preparation for such a job. Since joining Guilford County Schools, she has traveled more than 550 miles to visit 80 schools, over 1,000 classrooms, and has met with nearly 100 leaders and community groups. Dr. Contreras has also visited and spoken in several houses of worship, met with parents and community members, as well as university presidents, chancellors, federal and state leaders, and elected officials.
Dr. Sharon Contreras values community and relationships. She believes that every student deserves a quality education, and the chance to lead a life of extraordinary impact. In a January 2017 interview, she said, “This is a district that must raise the bar and close persistent achievement gaps, while expanding school choice and career pathways for all students.” It is already clear across Guilford County, the State of North Carolina, and throughout the nation that Dr. Contreras is on track to meet the goals that she laid out upon acceptance of her new role. She is well prepared for this work.
Dr. Contreras began her career as a high school English teacher before serving as a principal, area superintendent and assistant superintendent in Rockford, IL. Dr. Contreras went on to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for the Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia and in the Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island. Through the development of high-performing teams, her work in those school districts resulted in improved graduation rates and access to rigorous academic programs for all students.
In 2011, she became the first woman of color in New York State’s history to serve as superintendent in one of the state’s largest districts when she took over the Syracuse City School District (SCSD). During that time, she increased student access to challenging academic courses, expanded career and technical education options and improved low-performing schools. Under her leadership, SCSD established 16 new career pathways for high school students, opening a school for gifted elementary students and two new high schools to provide students with the opportunity to earn associate degrees in electrical engineering technology, manufacturing technology and health-related fields.
Recognizing the population of SCSD students at risk for dropping out, Dr. Contreras, in conjunction with Say Yes to Education, expanded its Promise Zone program, providing critical supports and resources to students with social, emotional or behavioral challenges. She introduced a new Code of Conduct and was subsequently invited to participate in a White House convening on school discipline, an opportunity through which she briefed members of the U.S. Congress on implementing fair disciplinary practices in schools.
Contreras has also displayed her commitment to addressing students’ social, physical and emotional needs by expanding partnerships with the community and bringing Breakfast in the Classroom and universal free breakfast and lunch programs to all SCSD schools.
Dr. Contreras’s passion for quality education extends beyond the students. She has repeatedly leveraged her influence in support of improved conditions for educators and administrators alike. In one such demonstration, Dr. Contreras worked with the New York state legislature to secure $300 million in construction funding to create 21st century learning environments, and negotiated a landmark contract with the teachers’ union, making SCSD teachers the highest paid in the region over a five-year period.
Over the course of her nearly 30 year career, Dr. Contreras has won countless awards for her civic work and leadership including: YWCA Champion of Opportunity Award; The Network Journals 25 Influential Women in Business Award; Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance Drum Major for Social Justice Award; Nosotros Radio Latina of the Year; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Fortitude Award; Southwest Community Health Center Leadership Award, Upstate University Hospital Community Leader Award; and the NAACP Freedom Award. She is also a proud and active member of The Links Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Today, you will find Dr. Contreras visiting schools, engaging the community through various initiatives, and working with her Guilford County Schools Transition Team, a group of leaders assembled to work together to meet her goals of preparing every student in the district for graduation and a full, productive life thereafter. The Transition Team is comprised of 99 members, representing 56 groups and organizations. They have organized the Superintendent’s vision into 4 areas of focus: 1) School Choice, Equity and Excellence, 2) Talent Development, 3) Organizational Effectiveness for Optimal Learning, and 4) Student Achievement. Not surprisingly, the district’s theme is “Soar to Greatness.” And soar, they shall.
Although Sharon Contreras is now considered the object of respect and admiration by many, she never forgets the place from which she received her own solid foundation. She was raised in Uniondale, N.Y. by her parents James and Elizabeth Contreras with her nine brothers and sisters, all of whom supported and encouraged education as a means of gaining the tools necessary to lead a life of extraordinary service to others. She earned degrees from Binghamton University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and now spends her days cultivating a remarkable legacy – leaving every school district better than it was when she arrived.
Susana Cordova brings almost 30 years of experience in the Denver Public Schools to her position as the district’s superintendent. She is a life-long Denver resident and has worked in DPS schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Cordova believes in the power of schools to transform the city. “Schools have the transformative power to build a more equitable future. We must create equity for all children, not by accident but by design, so that we nurture them to grow and achieve at high levels.”
Cordova has worked on projects like Teacher Leadership and Collaboration, in which teacher leaders both teach and lead teams of teachers; the educator effectiveness systems of LEAP and LEAD; the creation of district wide shared core values programming; and redesigning the districtwide programs for English learners.
Cordova received her undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado. She is a proud graduate of Abraham Lincoln High School, and lives in Denver with her daughter Carmen, son Alex and husband Eric, who have all attended the Denver Public Schools as well.
Dr. John Deasy became superintendent of Stockton Unified School District on June 1, 2018. He is a former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland and Coventry Schools, Rhode Island.
He is widely published and has won numerous awards for innovation and leadership and has been named, over the course of his career, Superintendent of the Year, High School Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Deasy, 58, coaches current and emerging national education leaders. He is active on a number of boards, including UnboundED, College Summit and Cambriar. He is Board chair of Reset: New Day, New Year, an alternative prison for young men, and he is editor-in-chief of The Line, a magazine dedicated to civil discourse on pressing social issues, including education and social justice.
Dr. Deasy earned his Doctorate from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and has received additional degrees. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Providence College, Rhode Island. He has taught at universities and is a speaker at national education conferences addressing low income communities. At Los Angeles he was credited for his Youth First agenda and with raising student achievement and college readiness.
Dr. Deasy and his wife, Patricia, have moved to Stockton from their Los Angeles home.
Colleagues hail Paolo DeMaria as a passionate leader, a tireless worker, a respectful listener, a consensus builder and a man with a great sense of humor. All are qualities Paolo calls on daily as he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.8 million students.
Much of DeMaria’s 30-year career has focused on school finance and promoting higher student achievement, college readiness and completion, and school choice for families. DeMaria is an unabashed cheerleader for Ohio’s public schools, having sent his children to Columbus Public Schools and The Graham School.
The son of European immigrants, the West Virginia native is the product of the public education systems of Easton, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Scotch Plains, New Jersey; and Greenville, South Carolina. DeMaria has a 25-year record of public service for the state of Ohio, having formerly served as a staff member in the Ohio Senate, assistant director and director of Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management and as chief policy advisor to former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.
Later, as associate superintendent for the Ohio Department of Education’s Center for School Options and Finance, he supervised the distribution of more than $7 billion annually to Ohio K-12 school districts and developed policies and legislative recommendations on school finance and educational choices for families. Afterward, he served as executive vice chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, leading initiatives to improve college completion, increase credential attainment, make textbooks more affordable and increase college readiness.
Before being chosen as chief executive officer of Ohio’s K-12 education system, DeMaria served for six years as principal consultant for Education First Consulting, guiding policy, implementation and strategy projects for K-12 and higher education clients in several states.
DeMaria earned his bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, from Furman University of Greenville, South Carolina, and a master’s of public administration from The Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. He has co-authored several publications, including K-12/Higher Education Alignment: An Action Agenda for Increasing Student Success, for Core to College and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
His honors include The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s Distinguished State Government Service Award and being named by Columbus Business First Magazine as one of 20 [People] to Know in Education.
DeMaria speaks fluent Italian. He lives with his wife, Patty, and their cats in the Schumacher Place neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, and often bicycles to work. The DeMarias have two grown children, Sara and Tristan.
Knowing every student by name, strength and need is the promise of Highline Public Schools. Under the leadership of Susan Enfield the district is delivering on this promise by implementing a bold strategic plan committed to ensuring that students graduate bilingual, biliterate with the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will prepare them for the future they choose.
A former high school English, journalism and ELL teacher, Susan served as Chief Academic Officer and then as Interim Superintendent for Seattle Public Schools before coming to Highline in 2012. She previously held leadership positions in Evergreen Public Schools (Vancouver, WA), Portland Public Schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Susan is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and earned master’s degrees from Stanford University and Harvard University. She also holds a doctoral degree in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard’s Urban Superintendents Program.
Dr. Donald E. Fennoy II is the 26th Superintendent of Schools for the School District of Palm Beach County. The District is the 11th largest district in the country with a student enrollment of more than 193,000 students. The annual budget exceeds $2.4 billion and the District is the largest employer in Palm Beach County with over 23,000 employees.
Prior to his appointment as Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Fennoy served as the District’s Chief Operating Officer from May 2016 to March 2018. He is credited with significantly improving operational efficiencies across the nine departments within his
division, following the transportation meltdown in 2015. In addition, he created organizational structures to successfully execute $1.3 billion in tax referendum projects. He also managed District operations during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Before coming to Palm Beach County, he served as the Senior Area Superintendent of the South Learning Community for the Fulton County School District, where he was responsible for the guidance and improvement efforts of 28 schools. Under his
leadership, the South Learning Community schools achieved dramatic academic gains in addition to significantly improving financial and operational outcomes.
Earlier he served as the Executive Director of the New Leaders for New Schools, Maryland Program, overseeing the day-to-day operations and programming for the Maryland Principal Development Program. In a prior position as a principal in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, his high school received the National School Change Award. This honor is presented annually to six schools in the United States that have demonstrated the greatest academic turnaround in a two-year period.
He is a member of the 2015-2016 class of the Broad Academy, part of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Chiefs for Change named him part of their 2017 cohort of the Future Chief program. Dr. Fennoy was honored for his outstanding accomplishments in the field of public education, and for being among the most notable 125 alumni of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University during the school’s 125th anniversary celebration.
He graduated from Florida A&M University with a degree in Elementary Education. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Central Florida. He and his wife Kendra are the proud parents of two beautiful children.
Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee is the Chancellor of DC Public Schools, selected by Mayor Muriel Bowser in December 2018. Before joining DCPS, Dr. Ferebee, a 20-year education veteran, served as Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools beginning in 2013, where he employed transformation efforts to drive turnaround for low-performing schools and raise the district’s graduation rate by 15 percentage points. During his tenure, graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students surpassed the district average, with Black students also surpassing the state average. Dr. Ferebee also designed a student-based budgeting process, enabling schools to innovate in order to meet the needs of their students while improving transparency and equity around the distribution of resources system-wide.
Prior to working for Indianapolis Public Schools, Dr. Ferebee served for three years as Chief of Staff for Durham Public Schools, where he reduced to zero the number of schools in Durham designated by the state as “low performing.” He also worked for Guilford County Schools in North Carolina as a principal, where he was named Principal of the Year, before serving as an instructional improvement officer and Regional Superintendent.
Dr. 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 degree in elementary education from North Carolina Central University. In 2016, Dr. Ferebee was named among Education Week’s Leaders to Learn From. He also received Marian University’s 2016 John A. Purdie Innovator and Mentor of the Year Award. Dr. Ferebee currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the College Board.
Dr. Chad E. Gestson has served as Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District since the fall of 2015. Under his leadership, Phoenix Union has launched five new schools, from a Gifted and Talented Academy to a college preparatory in one of Phoenix’s most underserved communities to the Phoenix Coding Academy. Phoenix Union has seen tremendous increases in graduation rates, scholarship totals, and college matriculation rates since 2015. In the spring of 2018, The Broad Center selected Gestson as a Broad Academy fellow, a member of the 2019 cohort. Prior to being named Superintendent, Gestson was the district’s Director of School Leadership. In that role, he supervised principals as well as developed future principals and assistant principals through an Aspiring Leaders program that he developed. He had previously spent five years as the principal of Camelback High School, where he launched coding and engineering programs and the first and only Montessori high school in Arizona. Gestson served the Isaac School District for five years before joining Phoenix Union in 2009, first as an elementary school assistant principal, and later as a middle school principal. A product of Teach For America, he began his teaching career in the Roosevelt School District in 2001. Prior to his public education career, Gestson was a commercial construction superintendent in Seattle, WA. Gestson holds a B.A. in English from the University of Washington, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from ASU, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from NAU. In 2009, he completed his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from NAU where he was named the Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year.
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.
Eric Gordon was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in June 2011 after serving as the district’s Chief Academic Officer for four years. He is responsible for the leadership and daily management of Cleveland’s 39,000-student school district. Mr. Gordon, together with Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and other business, philanthropic, and educational leaders, successfully lobbied Ohio legislators in 2012 to pass The Cleveland Plan, a revolutionary package of education reform legislation that was signed into law on July 2, 2012. The Cleveland Plan has received national attention for its strong bipartisan support and unprecedented collaborative process that united the people of Cleveland around a collective mission to transform their public school system.
Mr. Gordon is active nationally in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards curriculum and in the implementation of Social and Emotional Learning Standards for children. He serves as a member of the Executive Committee for the Board of Directors for the “Council of the Great City Schools”, a member organization representing more than 70 large urban districts across the United States. On July 1, 2019, Mr. Gordon began a one-year term as chair of the Council’s Board of Directors.
Prior to joining CMSD, Mr. Gordon was the Executive Director for Secondary Learning for the Olentangy Local Schools in suburban Columbus, Ohio. In that role, he was responsible for all aspects of education for students in grades 6-12. He is an experienced educator who has worked in both suburban and urban school districts. Mr. Gordon has served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.
CEO Gordon was honored with the “Green-Garner Award” in 2016, naming him the Urban Educator of the Year, the highest honor available to an urban superintendent in the United States. Active in the Cleveland community, Mr. Gordon was featured in Inside Business Magazine’s “Power 100” in 2013 and was voted one of Cleveland Magazine’s “Most Interesting People” in 2012. This year, Corporate College and Smart Business magazine honored him with a Smart 50 Award, given to the region’s top executives.
Mr. Gordon is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, where he earned his master’s in Education Administration and Supervision (1997) and a bachelor’s of science in Secondary Mathematics Education and Driver Education (1991).
Angélica M. Infante-Green is the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for the State of Rhode Island. In this role, she oversees the activities and staff of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), working to make the state’s schools the best in the nation. Prior to joining RIDE in April 2019, she served as the Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Instructional Support.
Infante-Green began her career as a bilingual classroom teacher in the South Bronx. Since leaving the classroom, she has served in a variety of roles focused on improving instruction for all students, particularly students who are multilingual learners. She held several leadership positions for the New York City School Department before working at the state level, and was a member of the first cohort of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program.
As a first-generation American, Infante-Green considers her first day as a teacher a life-changing moment when she realized her personal calling. Having herself learned English in school, and as the parent of a child with special needs, she has fought to replace a “deficit” view with an “enrichment” view for students who need more. Infante-Green earned an M.A. in Education and in School Administration & Supervision from Mercy College. She is married and has a son and daughter.
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. Janice K. Jackson has been immersed in Chicago Public Schools her entire life. She was a CPS student from Head Start through 12th grade, then began her teaching career at Chicago’s South Shore High School. Since that time, Dr. Jackson has served as a principal, a Network Chief, the Chief Education Officer, and now, as Chief Executive Officer for CPS, the third largest school district in the country.
Dr. Jackson is responsible for all CPS departments, including the Office of Teaching and Learning, which provides high-quality curriculum to engage and empower students, and the Office of College and Career Success, which works to guarantee that every student in every school has the resources they need to be successful in college, career and life. Other departments under her purview include the Office of Language and Cultural Education, which ensures that a language barrier never stands in the way of a child’s success, and the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, which provides students in special education with a high-quality academic experience that is tailored to their unique needs.
During her tenure as Chief Education Officer in 2015, Dr. Jackson has focused on building excellence, equity and access across the District, especially with regard to CPS high schools. Through a comprehensive High School Strategy, she is raising both the bar and the stakes for these crucial academic years, working to ensure that every student in Chicago has a quality high school option within three miles of their home.
Dr. Jackson was also the driving force behind GoCPS, the District’s first common application for all CPS and charter high schools. Launched in October 2017, this application system has dramatically simplified the high school application process while improving access and equity for all CPS high school students.
These combined efforts have propelled CPS students to a record-high graduation rate of 77.3 percent, and Dr. Jackson’s support of a graduation requirement insisting that all students have a solid post-secondary plan is ensuring that Chicago’s youth leave the classroom fully prepared for what comes next.
As a lifelong educator, Dr. Jackson is committed to providing all schools with a clear framework for excellence. This includes high-quality curricular options aimed at minimizing the achievement gap, especially among minority students. The evidence of her success can be seen in rising standardized test scores, especially among English Learners, whose progress led the way to CPS students once again outpacing their peers nationally on the 2016-2017 NWEA exam.
Dr. Jackson is a progressive, forward-thinking educator who believes in setting the bar high. Her Three-Year Vision for CPS, which was unveiled in 2016, is a comprehensive, research-based strategy that will launch CPS to even higher levels of student achievement. The vision focuses on promoting academic quality, building stakeholder trust and integrity, and achieving fiscal stability, and is a carefully crafted plan for guiding work across the District.
Dr. Jackson holds a Master’s in Leadership and Administration and a Doctorate in Education in Policy Studies in Urban School Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was a member of the University of Chicago’s Network for College Success, and was also honored by the National Council of Negro Women Chicago as a Woman Making History.
In her spare time, Dr. Jackson enjoys spending time with her family, especially her daughter, Tori, and her stepson, Torrence, Jr.
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.
Aleesia Johnson has served as the superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), Indiana’s largest public school district, since July 2019. She is a dynamic and collaborative leader who has demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to educational quality and equity over the course of her career.
Johnson has been an educator for more than 16 years, achieving success as a teacher, school leader, and administrator in both public charter and traditional district schools. A Teach For America alum, Johnson led KIPP Indy College Prep Middle School from 2012 until 2015, meeting or exceeding student achievement standards and increasing student retention year over year. In 2015, Johnson joined IPS as innovation officer and was responsible for developing and implementing an innovation and autonomy strategy across the district of more than 30,000 students, most of whom are children of color from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. She launched and expanded a new autonomous school model within the district and helped transform the central office to better support individual schools.
Prior to being named IPS superintendent, Johnson was deputy superintendent for academics in the district. She oversaw all aspects of curriculum and instruction, performance and continuous improvement, postsecondary readiness, special education, student services and portfolio initiatives. She launched the implementation of academic strategies that led to increased student academic outcomes and postsecondary success based on the district’s 3Es (preparing students for enrollment in a two- or four-year college or university, enlistment in the military, or employment at a livable wage upon graduation).
A native of Evansville, Indiana, Johnson comes from a long line of educators, including her mother, who’s an elementary school principal; and her grandfather, Anthony Brooks, one of the few African-American administrators in the Evansville area in the 1970s and 1980s. Johnson is married and has an adult stepdaughter and three school-aged children who attend IPS.
Dr. Michael Johnson began his service as Commissioner on July 1, 2016.
Commissioner Johnson served in the Copper River School District as superintendent, school principal, district curriculum and staff development director, elementary teacher, and special education program assistant. During his tenure as its principal, Glennallen Elementary School was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Johnson also is a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award.
Commissioner Johnson holds certification in Alaska as a teacher and administrator. He holds a bachelor of arts and a master of arts in teaching in elementary education from Columbia International University, and a doctorate of philosophy in education and intercultural studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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.
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.
On March 18, 2015, Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr. began his tenure as one of New Orleans’ youngest ever school superintendents. With over twenty years of educational experience as a teacher and school administrator, Dr. Lewis brings a unique and very classroom focused perspective to the table.
His administration has implemented a number of important reforms and has led the district into a new unified era, where for the first time since Hurricane Katrina all schools that had been overseen by the State of Louisiana are now being governed by the locally elected Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).
Before serving as superintendent in New Orleans, Dr. Lewis was a celebrated superintendent in Louisiana’s East Feliciana Parish, which is just north of Baton Rouge. As a result of his four-year strategic plan and leadership, Superintendent Lewis raised the bar for classroom teaching and evaluation, and made significant gains among low-income students. As a result, East Feliciana Public Schools were recognized by the Louisiana Department of Education as 2nd in the state for elementary student academic growth.
In addition to his work as superintendent in New Orleans and East Feliciana, Dr. Lewis also served in a variety of roles for the Algiers Charter Schools Association, the first Charter Management Organization to open after Hurricane Katrina. He was their director of academics and instructional technology, the assistant principal for Alice Harte Elementary Charter School, and founding principal of Algiers Technology Academy charter school.
Dr. Lewis was also a teacher for seven years in St. Bernard Parish Public Schools. In addition to his service in schools, for eleven years Dr. Lewis represented District 9 on the St. Bernard Parish Public School Board.
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.
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.
Scott R. Muri became the Superintendent of Schools for Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) in West Texas in July of 2019. Prior to joining ECISD, Dr. Muri served as Superintendent for Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston and as Deputy Superintendent of Academics for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, GA. He also held leadership roles in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools including Chief Information Officer as well as Area and Zone Superintendent.
In addition, Dr. Muri worked in Celebration, FL, for more than a decade as a technology leader and administrator at Disney’s Celebration School. Early in his career, he served as a high school principal and teacher, and was one of the first National Board Certified teachers in the country.
Dr. Muri believes that children are individual learners and that the student-teacher equation is most effective when instruction is personalized to meet each child’s unique needs. He also strongly believes in the importance of a great teacher in every learning environment and a great principal leading every school.
Dr. Muri graduated with a bachelor’s degree in intermediate education and middle school education from Wake Forest University in Winston‐Salem, NC. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Wingate University in Matthews, NC, and holds a master’s degree in public school administration from Stetson University in Deland, FL. He conducted master’s-level coursework in public school administration at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
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.
Paymon Rouhanifard served 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.
Mr. Orlando Riddick joined Midland ISD as Superintendent in the summer of 2017. It was his second stint as superintendent, having led the Cedar Hill ISD for from 2014-2017. Prior to that, Mr. Riddick oversaw all high schools for Austin ISD and later Houston ISD, which boasts one of the largest enrollments in the country.
Mr. Riddick’s career in education includes teaching, and serving as an administrator and principal in Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Mr. Riddick also spent eight years in marketing/public relations, serving a variety of clients from major corporations to politicians.
Mr. Riddick graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1992. After serving in the Army Reserves, he completed a post-baccalaureate degree in English literature in 1997. In 2004, Mr. Riddick earned his Master’s degree in educational administration from Texas Woman’s University. Then, in 2007, he began the Cooperative Superintendency Doctoral Program at The University of Texas.
Mr. Riddick is married to Yvette Riddick and has 3 children: Alejandra, Diego, and Aaron.
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.
Christopher Ruszkowski was named 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.
Penny Schwinn has made education her life’s work. She currently serves as Education Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education. Schwinn was previously the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Academics at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and over the last fifteen years has served in senior roles at the state, district, and school levels.
Schwinn began her work in education through Teach For America as a high school teacher in Baltimore, MD and a new teacher coach in south Los Angeles. She transitioned into the private sector to develop a deeper capacity for business, where she supervised work in the finance, operations, marketing, and information departments for a multinational corporation. She later moved home to Sacramento to begin the Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship, while acting as the Senior Consultant and Director of Student Achievement for the Superintendent for St. HOPE Public Schools. Through the BES Fellowship, she founded Capitol Collegiate, which produced exceptional results for traditionally underserved students (highest performing Title I or similar school in Sacramento).
As the Assistant Superintendent of Performance Management in Sacramento City Unified, Schwinn used a community planning process to develop the county’s first districtwide accountability system. Further, she designed the first localized school choice calculator in the country, ran the Principal Development Program, oversaw district testing, and served as a lead on the CORE Waiver. Later, as the Associate Secretary of Education in Delaware, Schwinn led multiple departments geared towards improving the quality of information provided to schools, as well as the strategic investment of resources towards accelerated student achievement. She further led the statewide Offices of Assessment, Performance Management, School Turnaround, Accountability, and Data Management.
As the Chief Deputy Commissioner at TEA, Schwinn oversaw the statewide assessment system; Performance Reporting (accountability); Research and Analysis; Curriculum, Digital and Blended Learning; Instructional Materials, the Office of State Board of Education Support; Early Childhood Education; Elementary and Middle School Programs; College, Career and Military Preparation and CTE; Special Education; English Learner and Bilingual Education; Gifted and Twice Exceptional; At-Risk, Highly-Mobile; Homeless and Foster Youth; Monitoring; and Special Projects.
Schwinn earned her BA from UC Berkeley, her MA from Johns Hopkins University, and her PhD in Education Policy from Claremont Graduate University. She was a Fellow with the Broad Academy, a senior consultant with America Achieves, and served as a Commissioner for Sacramento County Parks and Recreation. Schwinn was elected as a Trustee to the Sacramento County Board of Education and has served on the boards of several organizations and committees.
Elliot Smalley is the Superintendent of the South Carolina Public Charter School District (SCPCSD), where he leads efforts to dramatically improve student learning and close achievement gaps in South Carolina through the growth of excellent and equitable charter schools. Under Elliot’s leadership, the SCPCSD has focused its efforts on four key levers—authorization, accountability, equity and access, and policy—and SCPCSD-sponsored charters are making historic gains. Since 2015, the SCPCSD’s graduation rate has grown by over 23 points–higher than any district in the state—and the percentage of students of color served by SCPCSD charter schools has grown from 28% to 40%. For three straight years, Math and ELA proficiency scores have grown, and this year, the second year for new school ratings under the state’s new accountability system, 49% of SCPCSD schools were rated “Excellent” or “Good”—a 13-point increase over last year’s 36%.
Previously, Elliot was the Chief of Staff for the Achievement School District (ASD) in Tennessee, where he helped to create a new statewide turnaround district with the goal of moving schools from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in the state. During his three and a half years at the ASD, the ASD opened or converted 29 neighborhood schools serving nearly 10,000 students. During this time, student achievement in Tennessee’s bottom 5% “Priority’’ schools grew four times faster than in non-Priority schools and students in 2nd- and 3rd-year ASD schools earned “Level 5” growth—the highest-possible growth rating in Tennessee.
Before joining the ASD, Elliot was the Deputy of Strategy and Communications for the Charleston County School District, where he developed “Vision 2016,” Charleston’s district-wide strategic plan, and led the district’s communications and outreach efforts during a time in which a ten-year enrollment decline reversed to a five-year increase. Prior to his time in Charleston, he was a Senior Program Specialist at the U.S. Department of Education, leading national partnerships and initiatives in support of education.
Elliot’s wife Rebecca Kockler and his three children Harper, Benton and Cooper form his core and fuel his spirit.
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.
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.