Julia Rafal-Baer

If a woman is ever called ‘ambitious,’ ‘driven,’ ‘difficult,’ or ‘relentless,’ consider stepping out of her way.

In schools, we tell all children that they can be anything they want. It’s a striking irony that the leaders of our school systems — district superintendents and state chiefs — overwhelmingly are white men. Julia Rafal-Baer is working to change that.

Dr. Rafal-Baer, a former assistant commissioner for the New York State Department of Education and currently a senior executive at the national non-profit, Chiefs for Change, has dedicated her career to the fight for educational opportunity, especially for underserved students. Through her years in education – as a teacher, a non-profit executive, a board member, and an advocate – she’s helped to transform systems and build high growth, high impact organizations. She’s led a charge to support and elevate women and leaders of color and works with school districts to build systems that put all children on a path to success in life.

In her role as Chief Operating Officer of Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education chiefs, Dr. Rafal-Baer founded “Women in Leadership” – programming and supports designed solely for the women leaders, which resulted in a 400 percent increase in the percentage of the women landing the top state and district chief role and the percentage of women entering the top chief level search went from 23 percent to 74 percent within two years of programming. Never afraid to call it like it is or speak truth to power, Dr. Rafal-Baer is a nationally respected advisor to many of the country’s most effective state and district education leaders. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge where she was a Marshall Scholar. She is the proud mother of two boys and lives in Rhode Island with her husband.

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