The proverbial “perfect job” typically appears when the candidate finds a perfect marriage of passion and timing. That is what happened to Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno.
Santorno launched her career as a teacher more than 27 years ago in Denver, following Madeline Cheek Hunter’s widely used Instructional Theory into Practice teaching method, which says the actions teachers take in the classroom can have profound effects on students and their success. In other words, teachers matter.
Santorno’s personal passion for learning led her to a master’s degree, and then into her first principal job. Her first stint as an area superintendent, with Denver Public Schools, soon followed. In 2006, she convinced her husband, a lifelong Denverite, to pack up and move to Seattle so she could take a job there as chief academic officer with Seattle Public Schools. In 2009, they moved south to Tacoma so she could become deputy superintendent, eventually working her way up to superintendent in 2012. Graduation rates have dramatically increased during Santorno’s tenure, and are now near 89 percent. Today, she oversees a staff of some 4,000 and a budget of more than $300 million.
Santorno believes her drive to inspire her district’s teachers to be the best they could be is one of her strong suits.
“I really have a love for education,” Santorno said. “And I know that there are certain things that teachers can do in the classroom that make a huge difference. I just keep supporting teachers on that mission.”
Follow along as this energetic educator walks us through a day in her busy life.
Photos courtesy Carla Santorno
7:30 a.m. I start the day in my office, where I meet with our district’s leadership team to discuss the challenges presented in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year financial budget.
9 a.m. A quick stop for coffee at the student-run CAB Café at our Central Administration Building. This program is staffed by district students with developmental disabilities as part of our Community-Based Transition program.
9:30 a.m. I’m on my way to visit one of our 56 schools. I perform this duty so frequently that I feel like my Ford Escape serves as my office most days.
10 a.m. At Manitou Park Elementary, I meet with district administrators and school leaders to review data focused on student growth and teacher effectiveness.
11 a.m. The absolute best part of my day is interacting with and watching our students and teachers grow and learn.
11:10 a.m. I sit in on several classes at Manitou Park Elementary so I can observe teachers and students.
11:20 a.m. Interacting with teachers and students on an ongoing basis is essential. Sometimes, I learn new things from them.
1:30 p.m. Next, I head to the monthly board meeting of The Foundation for Tacoma Students/Graduate Tacoma.
1:35 p.m. I share with the group that — with the help of our community partners — we recently celebrated a milestone: an 89.3 percent on-time graduation rate for 2018.
7 p.m. After a long day on the road, I’m finally back home, and I’ve got my newest grandson safely tucked into my arms.