GUIDING PRINCIPALS Longtime MPS leader shares her expertise
Cynthia Ellwood’s first day on the job as a principal was unforgettable. “I felt like I’d
“ … her tendency to pursue bold change arises directly out of her passion and world view.” — Gregory Thornton
been hit by a truck,” she recalls. She was tasked with running the troubled Hartford Avenue Elementary School in Milwaukee. “There was just a lot of meanness — disrespect of adults toward kids and teachers angry at each other,” she says. It took several years of intense work to turn the school around, overcoming a group of loudly negative members of the teaching team, cultivating leadership by some of the quieter but more dedicated educators, and trying to create a climate where students and parents and teachers are working together. For Ellwood, the change became clear when older students stopped destroying the pots of flowers she brought to the school and kindergartners began picking the flowers as gifts for their teachers. Ellwood is now bringing her wealth of leadership experience to the College of Education, where she is a visiting assistant professor. That wealth includes 29 years with Milwaukee Public Schools, serving under nine different superintendents and handling a wide variety of jobs. She was a teacher for six years and a principal for 12, and she served for more than 10 years in the MPS administrative office. She played four different roles there, culminating in a position that functioned like a sub-district superintendent. As regional executive, she oversaw and made key decisions for the east region of MPS, which included 35 schools serving 17,500 students. In that position, she worked closely with MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton, who says of Ellwood: “She is driven by a commitment to ensure that every last one of our young people enjoys the highest-quality education. Though one could characterize her work as courageous, I have come to believe her tendency to pursue bold change arises directly out of her passion and world view.” At Marquette, Ellwood’s job is to teach leadership classes to graduate students, many of whom aspire to be principals themselves, and help reshape leadership education in the master’s and doctoral programs of the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership. “I thought I might have to explain myself, that I take a moral view of education and for
Visiting faculty member Cynthia Ellwood: reshaping leadership education here.
me it’s an affair of the heart,” she says. “But that was a given at Marquette — there’s a commitment to social justice and diversity. That’s been a thrill.” Bruce Murphy