Resource

Nationwide, Black women only comprise 1.4% of people leading school districts and 4.8% of the teacher workforce. Those statistics highlight the need for more representation so students can see themselves in the teachers and school leaders they encounter daily. In addition to students seeing themselves, research shows that White students also benefit from diversity. They showed improved problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity when they have teachers and leaders of color. An article in Scientific American on the importance of diversity summarized it this way: “Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.” The fact that so many Black women are the first or only superintendents in their states reminds us that our nation has a long way to go in creating a school system that fully represents and serves all students.

Black women superintendents are critical in today’s environment, where classrooms have become sites of cultural and political conflict. Because of their lived experience, Black women know firsthand what it takes to thrive amid racism and sexism — overcoming systemic barriers and challenges many of their peers do not endure. This lived experience fuels them as they work to meet their student’s academic and social-emotional needs and ensure that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, all students leave the P-12 school system with precisely what they need to succeed.

We have launched this Leading with Excellence video series to amplify the voices of women leaders. Stay tuned as we showcase a leader each month.

*Based on participants in the 2020 AASA Decennial Study of the Superintendent. Grogan, M. & Nash, A. M. (2021). Superintendents and the intersections of race, gender and district composition. In C. H. Tienken (Ed.), The American superintendent 2020 decennial study (pp. 19-28). Lanham, MD.: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Videos

Adrienne Battle headshotDr. Adrienne Battle, Superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, discusses the challenges and rewards of being a Black Woman Superintendent and what can be done to diversify the superintendency.

 

christina grantDr. Christina Grant, State Superintendent of Education for Washington, DC, speaks on the importance of Black women leadership in education.

 

Dawn Williams headshot

Dr. Dawn Williams, Dean, Howard University School of Education speaks on why it is crucial to have a diverse educator workforce that is representative of the student population.

Black Women Superintendents Are Leading With Excellence

Ed Trust and the School Superintendents Association (AASA) co-hosted an event in May 2023 called “Black Women Superintendents Are Leading With Excellence” to discuss the pressures Black women leaders face in their work lives, the need to diversify the school leadership pipeline and how to support each other while meeting students’ needs in the wake of the pandemic. The panelists talked candidly about their challenges as leaders and navigating the politically charged climate in schools and districts.

Many noted that they drew strength from their sister superintendents, who provide an essential support system in the face of the negative racial and gender stereotypes and microaggressions they sometimes endure as Black women. Participants included:

  • Melanie Kay-Wyatt, who was recently named superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia
  • Sonja Brookins Santelises, formerly of Ed Trust and now in her seventh year as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland
  • Kyla Johnson-Trammell, superintendent of Oakland Unified School District in California
  • Christina Grant, state superintendent of education for Washington, DC
  • Adrienne Battle, superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee
  • Dr. Monifa McKnight, superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Maryland