James D. Thornton and Ronald Browning have been appointed to the Harford County Board of Education by Governor Martin O’Malley.
Thornton, of Bel Air, is owner of Thorwood Real Estate. He is also Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Museum of Art and Board Member of the New Harford Democratic Club.
Browning owns a bed and breakfast in Harve de Grace, where he lives. He is a former teacher and newspaper columnist.
Browning and Thornton will fill the seats recently vacated by Board Member Don Osman, who declined to seek a second term and Mark Wolkow, who departed the board before the end of his term to pursue an employment opportunity. The move expands the board to nine members from the current seven members and is among the steps in a transition from an appointed school board to a board that will be a blend of three appointed and six elected members by 2014.
Thornton was appointed in April to the Harford County Liquor Control Board by County Executive David Craig, with the unanimous approval of the County Council, but notably without the support of the Harford County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. The delegation refused to take a vote on Thornton’s appointment earlier this year, according to delegation chairman Del. Rick Impallaria, because the majority of the delegation is Republican and Thornton is a Democrat. Impallaria said the Republican majority should be reflected in the makeup of the liquor board, but that the delegation declined to vote at all rather than vote down Thornton, who is African American, to avoid charges of racism. The delegation had previously rejected the reappointment of a Democrat and African American, William Jiles, to the liquor board, which Impallaria told The Dagger was also based on Jiles’ party affiliation and not his race.
Of Thornton’s appointment to the Board of Education, Impallaria said he found Thornton to be a “nice guy,” but didn’t know him well and added that he didn’t think Thornton should serve on both the liquor board and the school board at the same time.
Both Browning and Thornton will serve four year terms that officially began on July 1. They will be sworn in on July 11, along with Nancy Reynolds, a retired principal of Bel Air Middle School and Joseph Hau, a business owners from North Harford, whose appointments were announced in April.
Also being sworn in on July 11 will be elected school board members Cassandra Beverley, representing Fallston, Bob Frisch representing Edgewood/ Joppatowne, and Rick Grambo of North Harford. Both Frisch and Grambo had previously serve don the board as interim appointees, to replace two other board members who left before their respective terms ended on June 30.
The newly elected and appointed members of the Board of Education of Harford County will be sworn in on Monday, July 11 at 3:00 p.m. in the Board Room of the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air. Board members’ families and friends will be in attendance, as well as local elected officials and Harford County Public Schools Leadership Team members.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, the group of seven will join sitting board members Leonard Wheeler and Alysson Krchnavy at a board business meeting where the new nine-member board will elect a board president and vice-president two-year terms. The board business meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the HCPS A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air.
Here’s some more information on each of the appointments:
James D. Thornton, Managing Director and co-founder of Thorwood Real Estate
Jim’s career spans over 34 years working in large organizations as a general manager and at the senior management level. During his 27 years with Sears, Roebuck and Company, his responsibilities increased from Retail Store Manager to Vice President, Automotive Group. The automotive group was a $1.5 billion business, with over 850 automotive centers and 20,000 employees. After early retirement from Sears, Jim became Senior Executive Vice President at MBNA America Bank, N.A. MBNA at the time was the world’s largest independent credit card company. During his seven years with MBNA, Jim was responsible for several business lines; Specialty Insurance, Sports Marketing and staff functions (Recruitment, Quality Assurance and Director of Diversity).
Jim’s role with Thorwood is to assist in the development of strategy and to lend his vast experience as a general manager in the execution of business strategies. In addition, Jim’s role is to position Thorwood as a growth developer in the Mid-Atlantic real estate market. Jim has a BA in Economics from Talladega College.
Ron Browning, Proprietor of La Cle D’or Guesthouse
Hello, I’m Ron Browning, your host and the proprietor of La Cle D’or Guesthouse.
A native Marylander, I moved to Havre de Grace to open the guesthouse in 1994. The town is a great place to visit but also a wonderful place to live. When you visit I will try to make your getaway a truly memorable experience. Since I live on the premises, I am at your disposal to help you plan your stayover. Most of our business is weekend getaways so I advise you to book your rooms as early as you can.
At present, I teach in a public high school, teaching U.S. history, world history, archeology, and African-American studies. I also teach an adult evening course at the community college level in Spanish language. Since I have a variety of interests you will notice a number of collections and artifacts from my travels throughout the home – antiques, Civil War, Delftware, Imariware, botanical, and foreign cultures to name just a few.
Check back with The Dagger for more details.
Mr. Thornton has an impressive resume but lets not forget his very strong connections to Democratic Party politics in Harford County especially with Art Helton.
Little is known about Mr. Browning but it may not be a coincidence that he taught in the Baltimore County school system. Is there a connection to Tomback there, hmmmmm?
The influence of Annapolis politics appears to be alive and well when it comes to Harford County school board appointments. This is why we wanted an elected school board?
Pat Haggerty says
Why can’t politics stay out of the school board. O’Malley could have appointed someone who is not on the Harford County Democrat Board, and was club President! It would be great if the Governor appointed INDEPENDENTLY MINDED people, who have education experience. Thornton doesn’t have that. I do give the Governor credit for appointing Nancy Reynolds a month or so ago. Reynolds was a good pick. Don’t know Browning, but he seems to have an education background by his paragraph statement.
Mr. Thornton is a highly educated and erudite african-american citizen of some note. Politics aside, he will bring a new viewpoint to the board, and his history of management will benefit our school system.
Speaking of politics. Will Cassandra Beverley resign from her position as a member of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee once sworn in as a member of the school board. Being a member of either the Democratic or Republican central committee is as partisan as you can get in politics. We don’t need even the whiff of this type of problem on the school board. She and Mr. Thornton (current Liquor Board member) need to step down from these positions. Being a school board member is a difficult enough job and if done correctly would not leave time to devote to these other activities. Our kids and school system needs their undivided attention.
Tom Myers says
Having known Jim Thornton personally for quite a few years, I can tell you that he will be an excellent addition to the Board of Education. I can attest to his concern for everything that goes on in the county, including the state of the school system and is well qualified to ake on such a task.
By the way, Jim is not a member of the “Democrat Board.” Up until a month and a half ago, he was the President of the New Harford Democratic Club and served with another member named John Haggerty (Does the last name look familiar to you, sonny?)
And let’s not forget that Rick Grambo, the elected representative from District D, campaigned as a staunch conservative during his run for the seat. Does this mean that Grambo is not “independently-minded” enough for you?
Please, quit before you embarrass yourself further.
Phil Dirt says
Tom said, “Please, quit before you embarrass yourself further.”
Hahahaha! Tom really said that? Hahahaha! I take back everything I ever said about Tom not being funny!
Pat Haggerty says
Tom, God forbid you don’t imply someone is embarrassing themselves for not agreeing with you. Let me respond to every point you made.
1. Could you please provide some evidence of his concern to the school system. Meaning, what education experience does he have? I gave the Governor credit earlier for appointing Mrs. Nancy Reynolds to the board. She served numerous years as the principal of Bel Air Middle School. I also said Mr. Browning had high school teaching experience, so the Governor made a decent choice there too. (I don’t know anything about Mr. Browning, except for the brief bio.)
2. According to the article,
“Thornton, of Bel Air, is owner of Thorwood Real Estate. He is also Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Museum of Art and Board Member of the New Harford Democratic Club.”
Ok, I may be wrong. I admit when I’m wrong. But I also was going by the article said.
3. Yes, I know the name John Haggerty. He is my grandfather. Do I agree with his views, no. Do I credit him for getting me involved in the political process, yes. He respects my views, and I respect his. But why bring him into this discussion?
4. Concerning Rick Grambo, there is a difference. Rick Grambo was elected by the people of District D. Yes he campaigned as a “staunch conservative”, but the voters ELECTED him anyway. On the other side, Cassandra Beverley is a member of the Democratic Central Committee. I may not support her views, but she was elected by the voters in District B.
So let me end with one final point. Mr. Grambo and Mrs. Beverley were elected by the citizens of there respective districts. During the course of the campaign, it should have been up to the people who they ran against to point out that Mr. Grambo was a “staunch conservative” or that Mrs. Beverley was a member of the Democratic Central Committee. But I don’t support appointing a man who served as recently as one and a half months ago as the President of the County Democratic Party, and per his bio above, has zero education experience listed.
GOP veto power? says
Why should the state delegation have veto power over a local county liquor board appointment? Don’t the council members have minds of their own, or are they puppets of the state delegation that only wants Republicans holding every seat on local boards.
Really the board of ed doesn’t have much control over the day to day runnings of the school system. They will have input on some decisions, but as far as day to day I haven’t seen it in my 20+ years. Heck I can’t say I have ever seen a bd of ed member in my school in that time. I have only seen the super once or twice.
And the lack of school board member involvement at the school level is precisely why we have a partially elected school board. If you have been paying attention you should have noticed a marked difference in the way the newly elected members have been engaged in their board responsibilities and to the communities they serve, which is a major change from the attitudes of most past board members. Both Frisch and Grambo have spent quite a bit of time in their area schools (not just at school concerts or PTA meetings) and are attending other community related activities. They have also clearly demonstrated a willingness to challenge the superintendent and other board members about the old way of doing business. And I wouldn’t be surprised if their actions didn’t play into the decision of most of the appointed members to move on. That you never saw a board member at your school in twenty years says a lot about the attitudes and degree of dedication of some past members. We wanted accountability and no better way to get it than elections, and from what I can see we are getting just what we wanted from the elected members. We’ll see if the same will be said for the appointed members. If not then more ammunition for moving to an entirely elected school board.
Pat you didn’t have a problem whe your grandfather was president of the new harford dem club and got an appointment on the HCC board of trustees. Shame on you.
Joseph Smith says
It’s apparent that you know nothing about the Democratic Party structure in Harford County. The Maryland Democratic Party is represented in Harford County by the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. In September 2010, both Democratic and Republican Parties elected Central Committee members to serve a four year term. The Harford County Democratic Central Committee has 10 members – 5 male, 5 female. Ms. Beverly DID run for and WAS elected to the Central Committee. Mr. Thorton did NOT run for the Central Committee and, therefore, was NOT elected. He has recently served (past tense) as President of the New Harford Democratic Club, an organization that is completely independent (legally) from the Democratic Central Committee. As a Democratic club it is, of course, closely aligned with the Harford County Democratic Central Committee’s mission and goals but, by no means, is the President of the New Harford Democratic Club the “President of the County Democratic Party”. The Chair of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee is currently Wendy Sawyer.
I know Mr. Thorton and I believe his business experience will prove extremely valuable. Not only will he lend considerable analytical skill to the mix when it comes to reviewing budgets but he will also provide welcome insight into what employers are looking for in a future workforce.
Before you attempt to offer an opinion shouldn’t you check your facts first?
Joseph Smith says
My apologies, in my earlier post I should have referred to Mr. Thornton, not Mr. Thorton.
Democrats unite. You own Annapolis and your still not happy.
that should be “you’re” not “your.”
My, My, My…y’all sure get your panties in a bunch when questioned, dontcha? What’s wrong with Mr. Thornton being on the school board, other than the fact that he’s a partisan political hack? First, his only qualification appears to be that he’s a partisan political hack. Second, what stake does he have in the school system? Any kids in the schools? Former full time teacher or administrator, full time college professor or administrator, or at the very least a teaching degree? Doubtful, given the biography provided. Third, does he know sh*t from Shinola when it comes to pedagogy? Alas, it appears not. Fourth, how is he going to balance full time ownership of a business with his role on the liquor board AND being a BoE member? The answer is “not very well” and he should resign from the BoE to make way for someone (anyone) more qualified.
Mr. Smith, I can teach my dog how to analyze a budget. Coledata, I am sure there plenty of people with more of a stake in the system than Mr. Thornton appears to have who also have similar management experience. Let’s face facts, the only reason this man was appointed is because of his political connections. To say otherwise is being intellectually dishonest. Don’t pee on my head and tell me it’s raining.
You may not be aware, but any Harford County property owner has a “stake in the system”, far greater than that of parents, children, or even educators individually. 48% of Harford taxes are expended on education, and 52% of the county’s revenue comes from property tax.
We wish to see the best education that money can buy; it’s a serious investment in our future, and had you benefited from this, your prose might not have been riddled with question marks, and a quaint, but rather inappropriate, expression to conclude your comment.
Personally, I am not a political animal; I don’t care about a person’s politics, I care about their abilities, and, in a position such as this, to face up to realities, persuade other board members of those realities, and get the job done. Pedagogy, of itself, is not the concern of this board; that should be left to the educators. Getting the best out of those educators, and utilizing their skills to the best advantage while minimizing the cost to the taxpayer is the function of the board.
How you are going to teach your dog to analyze a budget is of considerable interest to me, as about 99% of our nation cannot achieve that.
What I am well aware of is that all Harford Countians (not just property owners) have a stake in the school system. I am talking about Mr. Thornton’s qualifications for the Board, which are sadly lacking, and the problems having him on the Board present. We will have to agree to disagree about property owners having a greater stake in the school system. I would prefer to see someone more familiar with, and with a greater stake in, the school system on the BoE. You can shout to the heavens that Mr. Thornton is “qualified,” and perhaps from your point of view he is, but I beg to differ, as my post made clear. Pedagogy IS one of the many concerns of this Board, and the most important one. It’s called the Board of Education, not the Board of Directors of HCPS, for a reason.
As for teaching my dog, he’s smarter than 99% of the humans I know (present company apparently included,) so I don’t anticipate any problems in that area.
Oh, by the way, I am a graduate of HCPS, and I have an advanced professional degree. I wrote the post in a colloquial manner. Maybe you remember that term from your own (apparently sadly lacking) education? As for the question marks in my post, they are there because, well, I was asking questions. Read for comprehension next time. I’ll type slower if you think it will help you. Get the stick out of your a** or I will be forced to taunt you again.