Baltimore City School's new CEO Dr. Gregory Thornton spent his first day on the job visiting district summer programs.
With his chief academic officer at his side, Dr. Linda Chen, who previously worked in Boston public schools, Thornton appeared energetic and eager as he toured Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School.
“We’re excited to be here,” Thornton said. “It’s good to use the summer for students to test drive classes and get ready for next year. There are 6,000 kids registered (in summer school programs) but that is not enough. Every child should be in a summer program.
Thornton said he hopes to expand summer programs in upcoming years to give more students opportunities as they advance in school. He also said he wants to get the community-at-large more involved in schools on a year-round basis. “There are many challenges in (Baltimore City) schools and the communities where our students live. So, we will have to bring everybody together because education is the entire community’s business. This is a call to action,” he said.
While touring the career readiness program at Mergenthaler, Thornton said he will get a feel of the district before making any major changes. In addition to his thoughts on summer programs, he does have a main goal in mind. “It’s simple. It’s around teaching and learning, it’s around teacher effectiveness. We believe if we continue to do those things right, the outcomes will be exactly what we want them to be,” Thornton said.
One challenge the former superintendent of Milwaukee faces here is a controversial teacher evaluation process. On June 16th, the last day of school, teachers and their union leaders held a protest on the steps of the district’s headquarters. They voiced their opposition to school administrators changing the scoring of teacher evaluations a few weeks before school ended. The more rigorous scoring method relies mainly on classroom observations and increases the score a teacher needs to be rated "highly effective." The new scoring also means some teachers will not receive the raises they expected.
Thornton said his responsibilities in Milwaukee prevented him from following the issue closely, but it has been on his radar screen. “Now my full attention goes there,” Thornton said. “I haven’t talked to the participants yet, so those conversations will happen very shortly.”
Thornton also has to deal with continued implementation of the district’s more rigorous Common Core academic standards and its billion dollar school construction plan.