MPS board "in limbo" after Sup. Thornton announces he's leaving

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton has announced his departure, saying he is headed for Baltimore to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. Thornton hasn't officially resigned from MPS, and MPS' board, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors says it is in a state of limbo.

This week, it was announced that Thornton is headed to Baltimore, pending successful contract negotiations.

“I’m proud to say I’m from Baltimore City Schools along with you as we move forward so today I do want to extend my gratitude again to the board to allow me to serve. It was a hard decision. I won’t look back. It’s been great. I will miss Milwaukee,” Thornton said in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Baltimore’s gain is a big loss for Milwaukee, according to Milwaukee Board of School Directors President, Dr. Michael Bonds.

“We are extremely grateful to Dr. Thornton for his tireless efforts to improve outcomes for students in Milwaukee Public Schools. MPS has made significant progress under Dr. Thornton’s leadership. He is one of the top superintendents in the nation and has done a phenomenal job. He will be missed,” Bonds said.

Bonds says anytime you have a transition, it is a challenge.

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors entered into an executive session during a meeting on Wednesday, February 19th to discuss what lies ahead.

"What's important is you stay focused on the task and move this district forward," Bond said.

According to Thornton's contract with MPS, he leaves behind a $265,000 annual salary, and perks that include a $600 monthly automobile allowance, and a more than $600 yearly fitness membership.

Thornton can break that contract with sufficient notice.

"Dr. Thornton has done an outstanding job and he has provided a solid foundation for the district," Bonds said.

It's a foundation that UW-Milwaukee Assistant Professor Leigh Wallace says will attract candidates to the position.

"They are going to come into a district they find is highly committed to the success of children," Wallace said.

And the right person can keep the district on the right path.

"I think it would be an exciting and invigorating role to take on for a professional educator," Wallace said.

Bonds says he is confident Thornton will finish out the 2013-2014 school year in Milwaukee -- but the board should have a better idea of the timeline in the next couple of weeks.

Thornton came to Milwaukee in July 2010 after a nationwide search to select a new superintendent. He has served as superintendent of Chester (PA) Upland School District, as Chief Academic Officer in Philadelphia Schools, Deputy Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools and in leadership positions in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools. He began his career as a teacher.