School & District Management

Three New District Superintendents Join Chiefs for Change

By Denisa R. Superville — December 14, 2016 2 min read
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Superintendents in Boston, Baltimore, and San Antonio, Texas are the newest members of Chiefs for Change, the education reform organization that once consisted of state school chiefs but is now comprised primarily of urban district leaders.

The latest members—Tommy Chang of Boston, Pedro Martinez of San Antonio, and Sonja Santelises of Baltimore—are among the 17 new members the organization has added this year.

Chiefs for Change, which grew out of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education as a supporter of school choice and test-based teacher evaluations, has revamped itself in recent years and changed its mission.

The group became a nonprofit in 2015, and has since shifted its focus to urban school systems. The organization has trained its efforts on talent development, expanding successful education practices, and diversifying education leadership. Implementation of the new federal K-12 law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is also a key focus for the group.

“Effective leaders advancing bold policies are what advance student outcomes,” John White, the Louisiana state superintendent and board chair of Chiefs for Change, said in a statement. “Our three new members have track records of success, and they’ve demonstrated the courage and the commitment it will take to move the needle for students in their districts.”

The newest class of superintendents are relatively new to the top job in their districts, though they each have deep backgrounds of working in public schools.

Santelises took over from Gregory Thornton earlier this year in Baltimore, where she had previously served as the chief academic officer. Chang was a longtime Los Angeles Unified administrator before moving to Boston in 2015. Martinez worked in Washoe County, Nevada’s second-largest school district, and in Chicago’s school system. He also briefly served as Nevada’s superintendent-in-residence before taking the job in San Antonio last year.

In addition to the current crop of superintendents, the new district leaders the organization added this year include Deborah Gist of Tulsa, Okla.; Barbara Jenkins of Orange County, Fla.; Tom Boasberg of Denver; and Antwan Wilson, the Oakland, Calif., superintendent who was recently announced as the new chancellor of the District of Columbia school system.

Of the 26 current Chiefs for Change members, only six are active state education chiefs. (That number includes the District of Columbia state superintendent of education.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.