Dr. Sharon Contreras is the former superintendent of Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. A passionate advocate for providing a high-quality education to every child, Dr. Contreras made history in 2016 when she became the first woman, first person of Latina heritage, and second African-American superintendent of Guilford County.

Dr. Contreras began her career in education as a high school English teacher before serving as a principal, area superintendent, and assistant superintendent in Rockford, Ill. She went on to work as chief academic officer for Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia and Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island. In those roles, she developed high-performing teams and worked to increase graduation rates and access to rigorous academic programs.

In 2011, Dr. Contreras became the first woman of color in the history of New York to lead one of the state’s largest districts. As superintendent of Syracuse City School District (SCSD), she increased access to challenging coursework, expanded career and technical education options, and improved low-performing schools. Under her leadership, SCSD established 16 new career pathways for high school students and opened a school for gifted elementary children as well as two new high schools that allowed students to earn associate’s degrees in electrical engineering technology, manufacturing technology, and health-related fields.

Dr. Contreras is a chief in residence with Chiefs for Change, providing coaching, advising, and thought partnership to Chiefs for Change members and participants in the Future Chiefs leadership development program. Over the course of her nearly 30-year career, Dr. Contreras has received numerous awards for her civic work and leadership. These include the YWCA Champion of Opportunity Award; The Network Journal’s 25 Influential Women in Business Award; Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance Drum Major for Social Justice Award; Nosotros Radio Latina of the Year; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Fortitude Award; Southwest Community Health Center Leadership Award; Upstate University Hospital Community Leader Award; and the NAACP Freedom Award.

Dr. Contreras earned her doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis and a master’s in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, she holds a master’s in English literature and English education and a bachelor’s in English literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton.