Dr. Tonja M. Williams, a leading voice on education, has been the superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, the second-largest school district in New York State, since July 14, 2022, when the Buffalo Board of Education unanimously appointed her as superintendent.
Dr. Williams has worked for the Buffalo Public Schools for 32 years, rising from the position of school counselor to that of director of guidance and counseling, school principal, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, interim superintendent, and then superintendent. She is also a proud alumna of the Buffalo Public Schools, having attended School #90, West Hertel Middle, and Riverside High School.
As a lifelong learner, Dr. Williams has earned degrees in both executive leadership and business administration, as well as professional and administrative certifications. Her doctoral dissertation work on African American students and the college application process was chosen as the "Most Scholarly Dissertation" by her graduating doctoral cohort. Dr. Williams also earned a Harvard University "School Leader Turnaround Certificate."
Her work has also included administrative positions at Alfred University and Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college or university in Charlotte, North Carolina. At Canisius College, Bryant & Stratton Business Institute, she served as an adjunct professor.
Dr. Williams has received Business First's 40 Under Forty Leader Award, the City of Buffalo Mayor's Distinguished Educator Award, the Woman Touching the World Recognition, the Heart of an Educator Award, the Buffalo Black Achiever Award, and the Leadership Buffalo 2003 Cohort. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., as well as Friendship Baptist Church, where Pastor Edward Jackson serves as pastor.
Dr. Williams' innovative Five by 2025 strategy, which lays out five major goals for the Buffalo Public Schools to achieve by the year 2025, has become the foundation that the Buffalo Public Schools are built upon. As a result, it is a special time to be part of the Buffalo Public Schools.
As superintendent, Dr. Williams has actively engaged parents, caregivers, students, staff, and the Board of Education to ensure that every student attending a Buffalo public school has access to high-quality instruction that considers their cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Dr. Williams attributes much of her success to her parents, Mr. Anthony Benson, Jr., and Ms. Elizabeth Benson, who instilled in both her and her sister, Michelle, the qualities of persistence, hard work, and honesty. Dr. Williams, a widower, is the proud mother of two adult daughters, Desiree and Kelly Williams, and one grandson, Cortland Boone. Dr. Williams is currently engaged to Mr. Major Knight, Jr.