Meet City Schools

  • September 2017

    John Davis
    John Davis
    Chief of Schools

    I work directly with Instructional Leadership Executive Directors (our principal supervisors) and principals to ensure that schools are constantly improving, with a focus on the day-to-day instruction.

    When I was growing up, I wanted to be...a basketball player, some combination of Dr. J, Paul Westphal, Walt Frazier and Doug Collins.

    I graduated from…the Ohio State University with a degree in Welding Engineering. I have a Master's Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Johns Hopkins University.

    I first started my career with City Schools when...I started teaching -- sixth grade math, to be specific -- in 1992, at West Baltimore Middle School. I was the founding principal of New Era Academy from 2003 to 2007.

    Before I joined City Schools most recently, I was…in a number of positions in the District of Columbia Public Schools, most notably as Instructional Superintendent of High Schools (DCPS' principal supervisors), Chief of Schools, Interim Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor Social, Emotional and Academic Development.

    If I could have a cup of coffee with any of my former teachers or mentors, it would be...
    Ms. Donna Goins. She was my fifth grade teacher and I learned so much about the world outside my neighborhood from her. A close second choice is Ms. Harris, my 10th grade Chemistry teacher. She was hard, and in retrospect I would thank her for pushing me in a difficult subject. My mentor teacher was Minnie Crosby, the science department head at Southwestern HS. Her relentless approach to her students was a wonderful role model for me.

    My favorite movie is...Heat. De Niro and Pacino, with Michael Mann directing. Do I need to say more?

    One thing that many people may not know about me is...I taught Baltimore City young men in Kenya for two years at the Baraka School.

    My favorite examples of leadership are...Mikhail Gorbachev and Barack Obama.

    [I admire] Gorbachev because he actually changed an entire system from communism to free market. While his reforms did not last and you could make the claim that the current corruption has done more harm than good, there is way more free market in Russia than when I grew up. The courage it takes to go against an entire system and change it, even for a short period, is incredible. And respectfully, it wasn't because Reagan told him to tear down the wall (it was already coming down).

    [I admire] Obama because of his class, his grace, his wit, and his ability to fiercely lead through a system that has always worked against talented black leaders. There are probably a gazillion other reasons, but I'll also mention that he and the first lady were incredible supporters of students. Not just supporters through policy, but through action and the time they took to meet, know, understand and lead young people in DC. Plainly, they are role models.

    The best thing about my role is that...educators who move into supervisory roles (Principals, ILEDs) almost always have a deep commitment to students and social justice. It's a blessing to work with people who are smart, urgent, and work towards a better future for young people in Baltimore City. I wake up every day knowing that I'm working with a committed group of folks. It's part of the fuel that keeps me going.