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Thornton named new MCPS superintendent

South Boston News
James Thornton / April 20, 2010
The Mecklenburg County School Board on Monday named a new superintendent — Dr. James Thornton, superintendent of the Cumberland County, School Division.

Thornton spearheaded the approval of a $33 million middle-school high school complex for Cumberland, which has a total school division population of 1,400 students.

The Mecklenburg student population is more than 4,600.

“He was ready for a new challenge,” said Dr. Amy Griffin, Cumberland’s assistant superintendent for instruction.

Acknowledging that the staff is sorry he’s leaving, she said they are “really excited for him.”

“He played an important role in providing a vision for the school division,” she said. “He has high expectations for all students and high expectations for the staff. He pushes everyone to do their best.”

Also excited about Thornton’s impending move are members of the Mecklenburg County School Board, who voted unanimously to hire him.

“We are very lucky to have him,” Joan Wagstaff said yesterday. “His leadership skills are phenomenal.”

She praised his record of improving instruction and challenging the students.

Dr. James Blevins, consultant who assisted with the search, said Thornton has an excellent background dealing with financial issues, an important criterion since the division is operating without a finance director.

Griffin said Thornton served as finance director before assuming the duties of superintendent in 2004. He continues to lead the finance team, which consists of a director of finance and operations, a business manager, and support staff.

Cumberland has completed its budget process, dealing with a $2 million state funding cut. The division expects to cut a total of 31 positions, including 17 teaching positions, Griffin said.

“We have had to work closely to make cuts that would have the lease affect on instruction and opportunities for students,” Griffin said.

She said that under Thornton’s leadership all three Cumberland schools have achieved full accreditation.

Griffin said that prior to building the new school complex, the school division asked teachers and students how they learned best. They designed their curriculum and the school complex around their emphasis on technology and small group instruction. They use a 90-minute block schedule, which makes possible both whole group and small group learning opportunities.

The high school consists of three learning communities, one that works with the community college so that students can graduate with an associate’s degree, an advanced studies program, and a program for at-risk students.

Thornton previously served as high school math teacher, high school assistant principal, and high school principal.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Longwood University. He completed his Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Virginia State University and earned a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech.

He was Virginia Association of School Superintendents Region 8 Superintendent of the Year 2007.

Awards he has received include Cumberland Branch NAACP 2008 Community Service Award and Longwood University, College of Education and Human Services, 2007 Professional Who Made A Difference Award.

Thornton will start his new job July 1.

Thornton will be relocating to Mecklenburg County with his wife, Mary, and children, Sean and Kelsey.

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If it sounds to good to be true it probably is!
Thornton has increased Cumberlnad Tax Debt by 120 Million Dollars for the next 30 years all for one build. Thornton also pushed the use of Eminent Domain costing tax payers 2.3 Million & Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to refurbished for building for one year use. Thornton recently held public meetings to push the need for HIGHER TAXES,during the meet he stated he & his staff would not be taking pay cuts yet they get all thier medical insurance paid for, but would cut teachers, staff, & programs. Cumberland is now so far in debt that Bankruptcy might be in our future we have no Prison, Industry a small grocery store, 9500 living in the county. Thornton just can't seem to do the math on a tax burden Cumberland now has. Mecklenburg must be paying Thornton a lot for him to leave 2 yrs early & breaking his CONTRACT! I wonder how much? Good Luck to all of Mecklenburg County Citizens I can honestly say, "Your Going To Need It!"


Good Luck Mecklenburg ! I don't think anyone here will miss him ... Real Estate owners look for your tax's to go up and strong arm Eminent Domain tactic's are his trademark !


I find it interesting that Mr. Bruce, who has nine misdemeanor charges and was fired from the school system continues to talk trash about the superintendent. Mr. Bruce is using that fuzzy math and is still angry because he was fired for being incompetent.

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