The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners announced Tuesday that after a national search it has chosen Gregory Thornton, superintendent of Milwaukee's public schools, to be the next CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, according to a bio provided by BCPS, Thornton attended Philadelphia public schools and then Temple University, earning his degree in elementary education in 1977. After starting as a teacher, he quickly moved to the principal ranks, serving as principal at four elementary and high schools in Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina between 1981 and 1997.
“There are defining points in one’s career and one’s life, and opportunities like this one, to really transform the lives of children, come along rarely,” Thornton said in a press release. “Baltimore’s school district is in an exciting place, where there is work underway and a strong base of community support in place to change the future for our children. Baltimore’s students deserve the best possible education, to be competitive and meet the challenges of this new economy and ever-changing world."
Thornton has big shoes to fill in replacing Alonso, who recently accepted a prestigious professorship at Harvard and whose six-year tenure leading the city school system was widely hailed for lowering the drop rate and increasing graduation numbers.
In 2004, Thornton became chief academic officer of the School District of Philadelphia, "overseeing all facets of the instructional, school management, accountability, policy and compliance programs of the 190,000-student, $2.2 billion district and its then 272 schools," according to the BCPS bio.
“We have a solid foundation of progress, and we are now building on that progress through the implementation of long-term reforms in areas where Dr. Thornton has deep experience and demonstrated expertise,” said school board chair Shanaysha Sauls in making the announcement. “Additionally, the priorities and values exhibited across Dr. Thornton’s career align closely with those driving the work in City Schools—from engaging parents and communities to investing in the capacity of staff and embracing the importance of high-quality learning environments."
Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, described Thornton as "one of the nation's most admired educational leaders.”
“Dr. Thornton is known to be a strong academic leader, one who understands the importance of emphasizing the whole child," Hrabowski said in a statement. "Most important, he knows how to build community involvement in a school system and is committed to supporting urban children and families. His experience in several major school districts around the country will serve him well in Baltimore.”
From the Baltimore City Public Schools press release:
"Dr. Thornton comes to Baltimore nearly four years into the superintendency in Milwaukee, a district comparable in size to City Schools, with 80,000 students, 165 schools and a $1.1 billion budget. Under his leadership, Milwaukee Public Schools has seen an increase in its graduation rate, in the number of students attending college and in college scholarships; scholarships for the Class of 2013 topped $24 million, up from $18 million the year before. Like Baltimore City, Milwaukee participates in the National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment, and the latest TUDA results from December 2013 show Milwaukee student achievement scores not only on the rise, but growing at a faster pace than the national average in reading and mathematics."
Milwaukee magazine profiled Thornton in April of 2012.