Sharon L. Contreras, Ph.D., Superintendent
Dr. Sharon L. Contreras is passionate about providing high-quality education to each child with the goal that every student graduates college and career ready.
Sharon L. Contreras is a teacher at heart, a transformational leader and a passionate advocate for children and education. Growing up in Uniondale, NY with 9 brothers and sisters, she learned early to advocate for her right to an excellent education.
At the age of 10 she was told by her teacher that she didn’t belong in the new program for gifted students, even though it included classmates she tutored. After pleading her case independently, then alongside her parents, she gained a seat in the accelerated program, which changed the trajectory of her life. This experience lit a fire in her to achieve and advocate for others. A beloved middle school English teacher inspired her to become an educator.
Years later, not even the loss of 90% of her hearing stopped her from breaking through barriers for herself and removing them for others. A trailblazer, after teaching in Illinois public schools, she then became a principal at 27. Her education career spans 30 years, two superintendencies – one urban and one in a county-wide district with urban, suburban and rural areas – and five states.
She was the first woman of color to lead one of New York’s “Big 5” urban school systems and the first woman of color, first Latina and first person with a disability to lead Guilford County Schools (GCS) in Greensboro, North Carolina. GCS is one of the nation’s largest school districts, with 126 schools, 10,000 employees and 72,000 students.
A true warrior for equity, Contreras is celebrated for implementing policies aimed at closing achievement gaps and improving academic opportunities and outcomes for children of color. Since taking the lead in Guilford County, she helped close the graduation rate gap between black and white students from 12.6% to 5.7%. In 2019, for the first time in more than a decade, student achievement rose in every test subject at every grade level and for all student subgroups.
While in Syracuse, she took on reducing the school-to-prison pipeline and tacked the disproportionate impact discipline policies have on students of color, successfully cutting suspensions in half during a five-year span.
A steadfast advocate for the most vulnerable, her purpose is to make certain that every child and every community have access to great teachers and great schools. She has won numerous accolades and awards from a wide range of educational, civil rights, social justice, civic, business and humanitarian organizations.
Most recently, she was named Superintendent of the Year by the NC PTA (2019), a NC Regional Superintendent of the Year (2020) by the Piedmont Triad Educational Consortium and North Carolina Association of School Administrators and a Top 5 Finalist for the Green Garner Urban Education Leadership Award by the Council of the Great City Schools (2020).
She earned her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015. She also earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Arts in English Literature, a Master of Arts in Teaching and English Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
Contreras is also a proud and active member of The Links Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She lives in Greensboro, NC, and is helping raise her nephew, who is the joy of her life.