MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday marked an important day for two cities separated by 800 miles. Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton formally accepted a job to lead the Baltimore City Schools.
"We're very engaged, I think, to be part of a reform that's really done some great things in Milwaukee," Thornton said at a press conference in Baltimore Tuesday morning.
Thornton will need to break his latest contract, signed last summer, which kept him in Milwaukee into 2016. MPS hired him in July 2010, facing a nearly$ 3 billion pension defecit and failing test scores. Thornton worked to cut that defecit in half.
School Board President Dr. Michael Bonds pointed to increases in scholarships and grant funding, a sharp decline in suspensions and a 70 percent graduation rate as signs Dr. Thornton made a positive impact.
"He started making people believe in MPS and even MPS believe in itself," Bonds said. But the school board president admits the district still faces an uphill battle.
"With a highly mobile and impoverished population, those are challenges in itself," Bond said. "Not to say because people are in poverty you can't learn. But those are challenges you have to acknowledge."
Governor Scott Walker agrees, saying Thornton's departure now puts pressure on the school board.
"To really be fully engaged, I think the school board needs to use the reforms that we offered through Act 10," Walker said. "They haven't fully done that, they were one of the last schools to come off of contract last June."
Dr. Bonds says Act 10 has helped the district in some regards. It will now be up to the new superintendent to make sure progress doesn't head in the opposite direction.
"We have something special in place to build on if we stay focused on the foundation that Dr. Thornton laid," Bonds said.
Bonds plans to call a special meeting Wedensday. He expects Thornton to formally resign from MPS soon after.