Baltimore City Public School Board Approves New Schools Chief

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Sonja Santelises. Photo via

Sonja Santelises said Tuesday that she is “humbled by the opportunity” and ready to lead Baltimore’s public school system, as the school board unanimously approved a four-year contract that pays $298,000 a year and starts July 1.

Santelises, 48, addressed the school board during its first meeting since she was named chief executive officer following a secret hiring process. She will replace Gregory Thornton, the superintendent for the past two years.

This will be her second time working for Baltimore City Public Schools.  From 2010 to 2013, she was chief academic officer under CEO Andres Alonzo. A Baltimore resident, she currently serves as vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust in Washington, D. C.

Santelises referred to her previous stint in Baltimore during her remarks to the board.

“I do just want to say how very, very good it feels to be back,” she said. “It feels right to walk down the hallway…I am happy to be back. I am ready to roll up my sleeves on July 1.”

Santelises said she has no tricks up her sleeve to transform the school system, and no quick fixes. She said she believes the superintendent’s job simply takes a lot of hard work and collaboration with others.

“I have no magic wand in my pocket. I do not walk on water. This is a team effort. I look forward to working with the community… This is work that can be done.”

The school board also approved the appointment of Alison Perkins-Cohen to serve as Santileses’ chief of staff, starting July 1. Since 2011, Perkins-Cohen has been executive director of new initiatives for the school system.

Ed Gunts

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