Plenary Speakers

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Kati Haycock
President, The Education Trust

One of the nation’s leading advocates in the field of education, Kati Haycock founded The Education Trust to promote the high academic achievement of all students, pre-kindergarten through college. In particular, the organization seeks to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign too many low-income students and students of color to lives on the margins of the American mainstream.

Before leading Ed Trust, Kati served as executive vice president of the Children's Defense Fund, the nation's largest child advocacy organization. Earlier, she was founding president of The Achievement Council, a California organization that assisted teachers and principals at predominantly minority schools in improving student achievement. She also served as director of outreach and student affirmative action programs for the nine-campus University of California system.

Kati speaks about educational improvement before thousands of educators, community and business leaders, and policymakers each year. A native Californian, she has received numerous awards for her service to our nation’s youth, and serves as a director on several education-related boards, including those of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The New Teacher Project, and the Hunt Institute.


Charles M. Payne, is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, at the University of Chicago. He also is an affiliate of the university’s Urban Education Institute. His highly acclaimed book So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2008) examines the intractability of failure in urban school districts and challenges policymakers to avoid one-size-fits-all remedies to improve our nation’s schools.

Payne has spent his career exploring issues related to urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change, and modern African-American history. With support from the Carnegie Scholar’s Program, he is studying the dynamics of school reform in other countries relative to how reform is perceived and carried out in the United States. He is a past acting executive director of the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community in Chicago.

Charles M. Payne
Professor, University of Chicago

A 2004 Carnegie Scholar and the winner of a Senior Scholar grant from the Spencer Foundation for the 2006-7 school year, Payne has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Northwestern University, and Duke University. He is a founder of the Education for Liberation Network, is the co-founder of the Duke Curriculum Project and of the John Hope Franklin Scholars program, and serves on numerous other education boards, steering committees, and editorial and advisory boards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Afro-American studies from Syracuse University, and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern. 

John King, New York State Education Commissioner, assumed his current post in 2011 after a two-year stint as deputy commissioner. During those two years, he led the state's winning, $700 million Race to the Top application, and has been a key player in aligning state standards with Common Core, guiding teacher development, and devising strategies for turning around failing schools. Before his work at the New York State Department of Education, Dr. King was managing director of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter school management organization, and a co-founder of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Massachusetts. At Roxbury, he and his colleagues established longer school days, strict rules of conduct, and teacher accountability measures, raising expectations for poor children. Roxbury Prep's efforts led its low-income students of color to outperform their white peers throughout the state, earning the school a Dispelling the Myth Award in 2008 from The Education Trust. King holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale, and a doctorate in education from Columbia.

John King, Ed Commissioner
New York State

Sonja Brookins Santelises, Baltimore City Public Schools' chief academic officer, interned in the Boston Public Schools as part of her studies in the Harvard Urban Superintendents Doctoral Program. She went on to lecture at Harvard, and became a senior associate with Focus on Results, where she coached superintendents and trained school leaders in five major urban districts. She then returned to Boston as assistant superintendent before transitioning to her current role in Baltimore in 2010.

At the beginning of her education career, Santelises was director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America, and she founded, taught, and was curriculum specialist at a year-round school in Brooklyn. She has a bachelor's from Brown, a master's from Columbia, and her doctorate in education from Harvard.

Sonja Brookins Santelises
Chief Academic Officer
Baltimore City Public Schools

Delia Pompa is the vice president of programs at the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country. There, she oversees NCLR's work in the areas of school reform, early childhood education, and charter schools. She works collaboratively with allied organizations on efforts to improve education policy.

Pompa holds a bachelor's degree from Trinity University and a master’s from the University of Texas, San Antonio. She has a particular expertise on issues related to English-language learners. 

Delia Pompa, SVP, Programs
National Council of La Raza


Ed Trust's artist-in-residence, playwright-researcher Brooke Haycock mixes interview with performance to produce incisive chronicles of opportunity and achievement in America. Based entirely on interview, her issue-focused documentary dramas tell the stories behind the national data, driving straight to the heart of debate around equity in schools. 

Featured at this year's conference, her docudrama Buzz is a testimony to hope, hard work, and high achievement in America's high-poverty schools, chronicling the educational struggles and ultimate triumphs of schools, educators, and students who refuse to settle for anything short of real success.  

Brooke Haycock                                                                          
Artist-in-residence, The Education Trust                                      

First Generation

Every family is proud of that first kid to apply to college, but some students face unimagined obstacles. Documentary filmmakers Adam and Jaye Fenderson, accompanied by cast members Cecilia Lopez and Dontay Gray, will screen and discuss First Generation this fall at Ed Trust’s national conference. The film tells the story of four high school students who set out to break their respective families’ cycle of poverty and bring hope to their relatives and communities by pursuing a college education. Check out for more information.



Adam and Jaye Fenderson