Mary Heuschel, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, presented the award to Santorno.
Santorno spent most of her career in Denver Public Schools as a teacher, principal, administrator and area superintendent before becoming chief academic officer for Seattle Public Schools. She came to Tacoma as deputy superintendent in 2009 and then superintendent in January 2012.
Under Santorno’s leadership and the visionary work of the Board of Directors, Tacoma Public Schools has begun an educational renaissance that has resulted in steadily increasing graduation rates and earned Tacoma recognition as the most innovative school district in Washington.
Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) is the third-largest district in Washington State serving more than 30,000 children in kindergarten through grade 12. The district has 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five comprehensive high schools and 14 alternative learning sites. TPS has more than 5,000 employees and is one of the largest employers in Tacoma.
TAASA honored Santorno for her leadership of a portfolio of improvements in Tacoma, including but not limited to:
• Developing a nationally recognized multiple measure accountability system that engages the community and provides 24/7, 365 day a year transparency of our achievement results.
• Developing a state of the art data system that identifies the specific needs of every child.
• Developing a project management office to lead innovative ideas and school design.
• Re-designing the district’s budgeting process to fund efforts that are directly aligned to the school board’s strategic accountability systems.
• Developing more than 40 meaningful partnerships with community organizations to support students.
• Changing how Tacoma educates students with special needs by incorporating them much more into general education classes.
• Developing a state and federal legislative agenda that advocates for the Whole Child.
• Building a systemic approach to teaching the Whole Child that pays attention to students’ social and emotion needs.
• Expanding communication efforts with parents and the community.
• Raising the graduation rate to an all-time high — most recently an 82.6 percent graduation rate for the Class of 2015.
• Closing graduation gaps between traditionally high-performing and low-performing student demographic groups.
AASA, the School Superintendents Association, advocates for the highest quality public education for all students, and develops and supports school system leaders.
AASA, the School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA members range from chief executive officers, superintendents and senior level school administrators to cabinet members, professors and aspiring school system leaders.
Deputy Director of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mary Alice Heuschel presented the award on behalf of AASA.