50 women to watch in Baltimore [Pictures]
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Tisha Edwards( Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun photo / July 2, 2013 )
42, Interim superintendent, Baltimore city schools
Tisha Edwards was used to being the woman in charge at Baltimore's school headquarters, but it wasn't until she was asked for her signature, which beginning July 1 would be stamped on 12,000 paychecks, that she understood the meaning of her new role as interim superintendent.
"I thought to myself, `Wow, I'm responsible for the livelihoods of all of those people,' " Edwards said. "That's a big, big deal. Bigger than I ever thought possible."
Edwards accepted the challenge to succeed her boss of four years, Andres Alonso, who resigned as city schools superintendent as of June 30. As his chief of staff, she was known as the architect of his most successful reform efforts.
A native of Meridian, Miss., Edwards came to Baltimore to study law and social work. She also helped distressed communities at the nonprofit Empower Baltimore Management Corp. She likened the experience to "an immersion program," learning the dynamics of race, class, education and religion in the city.
Edwards went on to help open the Baltimore Freedom Academy before working for Alonso.
Now she will emerge as a self-described "social worker pretending to be a superintendent." The mother of two sons educated in city schools approaches the task with a "my-child attitude."
She will tap that attitude to tackle some of the biggest reforms the $1.3 billion, 85,000-child system has seen in decades. That includes a $1 billion plan to renovate and rebuild school buildings, a high-stakes evaluation system for educators and a new curriculum.
Those who know Edwards say they've watched her rise to this occasion.
"Her hands have been on everything in this district, and she was not one to take the spotlight, but she's had to take the hit for things," said Joan Hammonds, a 41-year veteran of the school system who has served as Edwards' executive assistant. "Now she can go on the firing line with the best of them and hold her own, and she's constantly growing."
-- Erica Green