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Dawn Santiago-Marullo

Dawn Santiago-Marullo headshot

Affiliation: Alumna
Program: EdD, Educational Administration
Dissertation: School Superintendents’ Perceptions of the American Association of School Administrators’ Professional Standards for the Superintendency, Their Relevancy to the Superintendency, and Correlation to Pre-Service Preparation of Superintendents

Dawn Santiago-Marullo had read Stephen Covey and other authors known for their effective management tips, but a book she studied while at Warner—titled Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership—has been the most pivotal influence in her job as superintendent of the Victor Central School District.

In that book and through classroom discussion, she learned that a successful organization, besides its structural foundation and human resources, is guided by a leader who gives equal attention to symbolic and political interests.

“Those two categories were a-ha moments,” says the educational administration doctoral graduate (‘10). “Especially when you think about schools, some decisions are counterintuitive. From the outside, it might make sense to do things a certain way, but you could end up undermining the whole organization and not accomplishing all of your goals. It’s not just about the money.”

Decisions get even more challenging when you need to make, as she does, between $2 million and $3 million in budget cuts.

Santiago-Marullo was a business administration student at St. John Fisher College, taking Spanish courses at Nazareth University, when she volunteered to teach foreign language classes twice a week at a city elementary school. What she thought would be a nice community service project turned out to be the reason she switched majors and became a teacher.

Since starting with the Victor school system as a Spanish teacher in 1982, Santiago-Marullo has been steadily promoted. Her roles in the field have included director of special projects and programs, teacher center director and staff developer, president of the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers, and co-chairperson of the New York State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching. In March 2009, she was named superintendent of the Victor district, leading more than 4,300 students and 700 staff members.

Much of the insight Santiago-Marullo uses in her daily work—and that she incorporated into her dissertation, which focused on creating the next generation of superintendents—came from exposure to research and dialogue that she would not have known about without Warner.

“The most important thing I received there was the opportunity to be immersed in the study of education and leadership with very talented people, that think-tank mentality of being surrounded by the best of the best,” she says. “The intellectual stimulation from both the staff and fellow classmates really did allow me to think about things differently.”