Thornton's Thoughts

  • What a day!

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 8/31/2015

    Dr. Thornton with student Just like our students and families, I was out the door early this morning, on my way to the first day of school. I was able to visit Matthew A. Henson, Carver, Gilmor, and Baltimore International Academy, and I plan to visit as many more schools as I can in the next few days.

    Everywhere I went today, I saw students and teachers excited and ready for a great school year — and we're off to a great start. As Henson Elementary School Principal Guzman put it, this year we have a "laser-like focus on what's important." Across the district, that means making sure that every student at every school gets the instruction, opportunities, and support needed to move forward on the path to college and career success.

    I invite you to share today's excitement in this video and photo gallery. And our Twitter feed is full of #firstdaybaltimore messages and pictures from schools, staff, parents, and partners.

    To all of our school communities: Thanks for a great first day! I look forward to the many great days ahead this year. 

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  • Have a great summer...and read!

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 6/24/2015

    With summer vacation now underway, I want to take this opportunity to thank City Schools' parents, guardians, and families for a wonderful school year in 2014-15. There were so many student and school achievements to celebrate, from academic and attendance awards, sports championships, and art prizes to the energy and excitement I saw in classrooms every time I visited a school. Your support for our students and schools was an essential part of that success.

    I hope you have a chance to relax and have fun with your families this summer. If you’re looking for summer programs for your child, please check the Super Summer website that provides details of City Schools programs along with other opportunities across the city. Please note that any school that is open for programming this summer is also serving meals on a drop-in basis to children and teens up to age 18. Additional sites for summer meals are listed on the Super Summer website.

    One way to have fun and keep learning throughout the summer is by reading, and this website offers reading suggestions for every age — adults included! Students currently in pre-k to grade 4 received the Enoch Pratt’s summer reading loglast month at school. Throughout the summer, they can keep track of how much they read and take the log to the library to win some great prizes. Enoch Pratt also has suggested reading lists for students entering grades 6 to 12. Students in these grades can also take part in USA Today’s summer reading challenge. And while you’re encouraging your child to read or visiting the library, don’t forget to pick up a book for yourself. You’ll be a great role model for your children, as well as giving yourself a chance to relax, unwind, and learn something new with a good book.  
    Our students share what they think about summer reading

    I wish you a great summer — and I look forward to seeing students back at school on August 31 for a new year of energy and excitement about learning.

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  • Thank you, City Schools teachers

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 5/5/2015

    This year's Teacher Appreciation Week couldn't come at a better time. I am constantly inspired by your passion, dedication, and intelligence — and even more so after last week.

    Since I joined City Schools almost a year ago, I have visited many classrooms and have heard from many students about what they're learning and the creative ways they're learning it. They enjoy coming to school, and they don't want to miss a day with you. Last Wednesday, I stopped by several classrooms and was reminded again about how much you mean to our students, our district, and our communities. Many students couldn't wait to be back at school, because they knew you would help them talk about and learn from what was happening in our city.

    Though we set aside a special week every year to thank you, I honor you every day. I am thankful for the support you provided our students last week and for your work throughout the year to prepare our students for success in the future.

    I ask everyone in the City Schools family to please join me in thanking our teachers this week, and especially on Tuesday, May 5 — National Teacher Appreciation Day. #ThankATeacher

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  • Partners make it possible

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 4/7/2015

    Over the past few weeks, more than 15,000 of our middle and high school students saw the movie Selma — for free. This was made possible by a group of generous individuals and organizations that, together, contributed more than $130,000 to cover the cost of tickets.

    As CEO, I can say thank you on behalf of the district, but the students wanted to say thank you themselves:

    For our students, this was more than a couple of hours at the movies — it was learning coming to life. (You can see and hear more about that learning in videos with students from Claremont High School and Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School.) Experiences like these happen because of the support of people like the donors to the Selma project, and the many more volunteers, partners, and friends who support our students and schools every day. Thank you all for making things possible.

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  • Sometimes learning is loud

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 3/23/2015

    Meet the loyalists and patriots of Ms. Tony’s 5th-grade class at Violetville Elementary/Middle School:

    I'm sure Ms. Tony's students won't soon forget the day the Revolutionary War played out in their classroom. As part of a lesson that combined American history with making persuasive arguments, they staged an in-class protest, waving signs, yelling chants, and trying to sway their classmates across the room to come to their side. Boy, was it loud ... and powerful. You can feel the tension, hear the passion, and see how much these students are learning.

    I get excited when I see teaching and learning like this! It's taking place across grades and schools here in Baltimore, and I'm pleased to be able to invite you into our classrooms through our online video channel. Take a peak at students who are

    Lessons like these motivate students to come to school every day. And that's worth shouting about — as loudly as possible!

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  • Learning the biz

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 2/11/2015
    "College and career readiness" is a buzz phrase I hear (and say myself) pretty often these days. But last month, I got to see how that buzz turns into real learning when I spent some time with a group of 5th and 6th graders from North Bend Elementary/Middle School.
    Through our partnership with Junior Achievement, these students paid a visit to BizTown and spent the day managing payroll for Northrop Grumman, providing advice as T. Rowe Price account representatives, reporting for the Baltimore Business Journal, and more. They learned about careers, personal finance, and academic subjects, and they also found out about responsibility, communication, time and project management, and other skills needed for success in the workplace.
    Check out this video, and see what getting ready for college and career looks like when great teaching, learning, and community partnerships come together for our kids!
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  • 2015: My action list

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 1/27/2015

    Like many of you, I’ve spent some time in the past few weeks thinking about ways to make 2015 better than the year we left behind. I’ve made my share of resolutions, and this may just be the year I'm successful in getting more exercise and reconnecting with some old friends.

    But the success that matters most to me is something close to the hearts of all educators: The success of our children. So this year, besides my own personal resolutions, I’ve made a list of things I’d like to see in 2015 that will make a difference in children’s lives. I call it an action list, not a “wish" list — because I think we really can move the needle in these areas and create a better future for our students, their families, and our city.

    1. Healthier children. We can make sure all families know about

    2. Safer schools. We can work with the whole school community to

    I care so much about breakfast, I'll arm wrestle for it!

    3. More engaged students. We can help students realize the value of education by

    • Greeting children every day with a smile
    • Recognizing each child as an individual, with individual strengths and challenges, plans and hopes for the future
    • Working to find that special thing that sparks each child’s interest and enthusiasm
    • Creating opportunities for learning of all kinds — visual, hands-on, and more

    4. Bigger dreams. We can encourage high expectations by

    • Celebrating strong school attendance
    • Watching for, encouraging, and supporting each student’s interests and talents
    • Talking with parents about ways to encourage reading and learning at home
    • Talking with students about college, beginning in the elementary grades
    • Providing opportunities to explore job fields, with experiences from career days to internships

    Folks, this is what it's all about

    All of us can do at least a few of these things — and some of us can do most of them. Please join me in taking these actions, large and small, to make 2015 a great year for our students, schools, and city.

    Do you have an action list for 2015? Anything you want to add to mine? I’d love to hear from you.
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  • What I'm reading

    Posted by Greg Thornton on 1/26/2015

    Making time for reading is a priority for me, and I think it should be a priority for everyone. For young or old, reading means learning, being inspired, thinking more deeply, and just having fun. For adults, there's a special bonus: By reading ourselves, we're being great role models for our children and students.

    I'm going to list here a few books that have inspired me, made me think, taught me something, or that I've just plain liked. I hope they might inspire you to make more time for reading. And if you've got book suggestions for me, please let me know!

    January reading

    The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
    A truly compelling story about how lives diverge, written by one of Baltimore's most accomplished citizens — and a great partner and advocate for the power of education

    Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City, by Antero Pietila
    Another book set in Baltimore, this one using our city's history to talk about how racism and discrimination have shaped so many urban centers across our country

    Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, by Glenn E. Singleton and Curtis Linton
    If we're going to have equity in education and close the achievement gap, we need to be able to talk honestly, openly, and productively about race — and this book provides a framework for those courageous and important conversations (and there's another Baltimore connection in Glenn Singleton, a Baltimore native and graduate of a City Schools elementary school)

    How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough
    This book makes the case for something most of us educators have always felt: Success in school is only partly the result of academic ability, and there are many things we can do to help all children succeed

    The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations, by Peter Senge
    I've learned a lot from this book about leadership and management, and how to implement learning and change in effective and positive ways in large organizations

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