Baltimore City Schools CEO’s Salary Increases As Student Performance Declines

What’s happening?

As Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises’ salary increased over her five-year tenure, performance in the schools she oversees declined, an analysis by Fox45 News’s investigative team, Project Baltimore, revealed. At $375,688 annually, Santelises earns the highest salary among Maryland school leaders and one of the highest of similar employees across the country. 

How has student performance decreased? 

Under Santelises, the graduation rate dropped from 71% in 2016 to its current 69%, and the college enrollment rate has also dropped by 13 points. Some of the metrics Project Baltimore analyzed were already trending downward before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Since 2015, Baltimore has been in socio-economic disequilibrium,” said economist Anirban Basu, who served on the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners in the early 2000s. Santelises became CEO in 2016, following a year of turmoil in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died in police custody. “It’s tough to make improvements when times are like this. And so, what I’m suggesting, is it’s conceivable that what she has done is stem decay that otherwise would have transpired.”

Santelises was also CEO during several scandals including enrollment inflation at Augusta Fells Savage and grade changing at Calverton Elementary/Middle, NACA, and Joseph C. Briscoe. 

Anything else I should know? 

The Baltimore City School Board chooses the CEO. The board responded to Project Baltimore’s interview request with a written statement stating that Santelises “is worth every cent of her salary.” 

You can read more here. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Reporting for this story was provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and we thank them for their support. However, the findings and conclusions presented in this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.

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