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Loyola University Chicago

Commencement

Johnnie Thomas, EdD

Superintendent, Community High School District 155

As superintendent of Community High School District 155 in Illinois, Dr. Johnnie Thomas is responsible for the successful delivery of comprehensive educational services to nearly 7,000 students who attend four high schools and an alternative education campus in McHenry and Lake counties. He is the eleventh superintendent in the district's 95-year history and its first African-American leader.

Early in Dr. Thomas’s career, he had the opportunity to work with Department of Children and Family Services wards of the state. While moving students from home to home, he noticed the positive emotional impact social workers had on the children. Social work offered Dr. Thomas the chance to advocate for kids, something he had always wanted, leading him to acquire his MSW
at Loyola, where the Jesuit tradition strengthened this passion.

Dr. Thomas began working in the public school systems as a school social worker in the Chicago Public Schools district
for four years. After holding several administrative positions at Valley View Schools District, he became the executive director of student services. During his tenure at Valley View, Dr. Thomas continued to examine ways to level the educational playing field by creating an emotional disability program that focused on improving not only students’ academic performance but also their social and emotional skills.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Thomas served three years as associate superintendent for student services at the 13,000-student Township High School District 214. He led an initiative to create a simulated apartment that helped
students with severe to profound disabilities learn self-sufficiency.

Dr. Thomas’s combined experiences have strengthened his capacity to collaborate, negotiate, strategize, manage crises, and lead at District 155. As superintendent, he successfully spearheaded efforts to improve district facilities, avoid a teacher strike, shepherd the passing of the district’s $20 million bond issuance, and manage school operations to balance the district budget—all within the first 18 months of his placement.

Dr. Thomas has directed workshops, speeches, and professional development sessions that align with his research on the resiliency of young men of color who overcome obstacles to succeed in college and careers. He also acts as an advisory
board member of the Loyola University Chicago School of Education, serves on boards for the McHenry County Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization and Special Education Department of McHenry County, and is president of the McHenry County Superintendents Organization.

Dr. Thomas grew up on the West Side of Chicago and graduated from three Illinois institutions, earning his BA from Southern Illinois University, his MSW from Loyola University Chicago, and his EdD from DePaul University.

He was recently featured in DePaul magazine’s “14 under 40 Alumni Making a Difference” and is honored to have been selected by Loyola, his alma mater, as a commencement speaker.

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