Leadership and Equity

May 2, 2018

Conversations about equity often stay in the schoolhouse. The conversation might happen in an afternoon PD session, or it might be a one-on-one discussion with a colleague. But how often do we bring the conversation about equity to the communities in which we serve? More important, have we considered the context of our times and current public opinion of schools? Distrust of public institutions, including the schools where we serve, is at an all-time high.

In this powerful keynote address during the Winter 2018 Standards Institute, Sonja Santelises shares her experience working in Baltimore City Public Schools and how generalized distrust of public institutions influences the community’s views of teachers and school leaders as well as how they serve students. Santelises explains that educators need to bridge the disconnect between the intellectual exercise of discussing equity and the real-world, practical realities of our communities. She charges the audience to explore this disconnect while considering historical context as well as who is part of the discussion—and who is outside the discussion. 

This keynote addresses:

  • How educators have to link their work in schools to a larger dialogue that addresses communities of color, poverty, etc. and the long-term livelihood of both students and their communities.
  • How she learned that education can literally be about life or death, and educators have the power to decide which students have options that allow them to choose life,
  • The value of understanding and acknowledging the historical context that influences our communities and our nation.
  • Looking at data, both historic and academic, and honestly acknowledging where our students are.
  • The power of student voice and recognizing that they know when they’re not receiving the education they deserve.

Sonja is the chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. She has spent close to 30 years focused on building high-quality teaching and learning to help students excel, including her tenure as the chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools from 2010 to 2013. Sonja returned to City Schools in July 2016 after serving three years as vice president for K–12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization focused on closing the achievement gap experienced disproportionately by African American, Latino, and Native students and students from low-income families.

Watch Leadership and Equity



Ask Yourself

“How does my equity work address my student’s reality?”

Find Additional Resources

If you’re looking for ways to talk about race and bias in your school, check out UnboundEd’s Bias Toolkit.