Sonia Gutierrez, the founder of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, officially retired at the end of January 2019 from the school’s board and its supporting nonprofit, Community Capital Corporation. Throughout her nearly five decades-long career in Washington, D.C., Ms. Gutierrez touched tens of thousands of lives as an unrelenting advocate for adult education and immigrant integration.
“Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School today stands on a foundation constructed and reinforced under the leadership of Sonia Gutierrez,” said Carlos Rosario School CEO Allison Kokkoros. “Sonia’s work created the first adult public charter school in the nation and the largest immigrant services organization in Washington, D.C. As we carry out the vision she had, the current leadership team is expanding upon that foundation and enacting innovative strategies that serve our students, faculty, staff and the larger D.C. community. We are deeply grateful for Sonia’s lifelong commitment to the school and the community we exist to serve.”
Gutierrez started her career in adult education in 1972 as a counselor of the Program of English Instruction for Latin Americans (PEILA). She was brought in and mentored by Carlos Manuel Rosario, founder of PEILA and other programs that served the Latino community in Washington. She quickly rose through the ranks and became director of the program that same year.
Initially PEILA served some 100 students but responding to community need, Gutierrez grew the program. She worked with hundreds of staff members and students throughout the decades to transform the school into what it is today, a two-campus charter serving more than 2,900 students annually.
Under Gutierrez’s leadership, the school:
- Opened as the nation’s first adult charter school in 1998
- Found a home for school operations and renovated an 84,000 square foot campus in Columbia Heights
- Opened a new 64,000 square foot campus in Eckington in 2013
- Grew from serving 400 students to 2,000 across the two campuses
- Received consistently excellent performance reviews for all annual and five-year reviews as a charter school
Gutierrez stepped down as CEO and President of the Carlos Rosario School in 2014, with Allison Kokkoros stepping into the role of Chief Executive Officer. She continued to work as the head of Community Capital Corporation (CCC), the nonprofit sister organization that operates school’s facilities, until her retirement on January 31, 2019