I made a similar journey about five years ago, though at about a quarter of the salary. Here’s what you have waiting for you in your out-of-the-frying-pan and into-the-fire transition to the east coast from the fresh coast, Dr. Thornton:
- You will now be referred to as Chief Executive Officer and will hold court with what you will know as assistant superintendents, but here respectfully (or sometimes mockingly) called the chiefs.
- You will lead a district almost the same size as Milwaukee (Baltimore is about six thousand students larger), with similar demographics.
- You will inherit a district marred by nearly seven years of student discipline reform that has left teachers injured and many schools less safe (though suspension rates paradoxically dropping) (See this gem of investigative reporting from the Baltimore Sun)
- You will inherit a teacher contract that is controversial, divisive, and proving impossible to fully implement.
- You will be involved in negotiating a para-professional and secretary contract that expires soon.
- You will inherit one of the largest school construction plans known to humankind that will bring new schools and better learning environments for Baltimore’s students over the next ten years.
- You will have to deal with the fact that 3 well-timed inches of snow may cause you to close schools.
- You will have to supervise a massive influx of under-certified teachers as alternative-cert programs rapidly expand in Baltimore.
- You will get to oversee the implementation of a new teacher evaluation structure, tied to state law, tied to Race-to-the-Top, tied to PARCC, tied to Common Core, and tied to very little academic research.
- You will inherit a student-body, “84,000 Great Kids,” who most often than not deserve the title “great kids” and have great potential if you can find a way to keep a system that has failed them for so long from continuing to do so.
Here’s the thing though, and why I am excited for you, Dr. Thornton, to come to Baltimore: You seem to be just the person for the job, someone with great experience in education, someone who has risen through the ranks when no one seems to any more, someone excited to challenge a community to rally around its kids, someone with a education-centered vision, not a management-centered vision. This is just the pendular shift we need in leadership.
So prove me right. Come here prepared to stand up to a school board that doesn’t always have the best interests of children in mind, to a mayor and city council who also don’t very well advocate for kids, and to the long line of skeptics waiting for you to fail. Help right the ship where it has strayed and help sustain the progress where it has been made. If you are here to support children, not simply to hold the line for corporate education reformers, you have my support. Welcome to Charm City.