BALTIMORE - As official greeters to a new school year in Baltimore City, the pressure was on for eighth graders Mikayla and Mark.
But no greater pressure than for the man they were greeting, the new boss of city schools, Dr. Gregory Thornton.
“You have to be excited. This has been a great first day. We're off to a great start. I've had the opportunity to be in several schools. Our children are on task, focused and you couldn't ask for more,” Thornton said.
A perfect example was Afya Public Charter School in northeast Baltimore.
Thornton, with the mayor, witnessed teachers and students already hard at work, an example to be set citywide.
“I made it clear to all of my agencies, whether you're… you have a child focus or not, there's something you can do to help our kids achieve,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “And I know that that's what we feel about everyone in the city. There's something you can do to make sure that our children are able to reach their fullest potential."
One key challenge, though, is stabilizing the frequent turnovers of principals.
"We're really focusing on how to attract great talent, how do we keep great talent, and how do we nurture that talent so that we can have a school district that's highly dependable to our community and children," Thornton said.
So as Thornton caps off day one of the school year, perhaps his best advice comes from someone most affected by his success.
"Push us hard and don't take us easy… cause we smart. And we're gonna keep going,” said Mark Maddox II, an eighth grader.