ALUMNI PROFILE Morgan Gallagher (JD ’10)

A man for others

Morgan Gallagher (JD ’10) is chief of schools for Illinois’ fifth-largest city

One thing has been consistent for Morgan Gallagher (JD ’10) since high school: his desire to serve his community. A winding road led him to his role as chief of schools for Rockford (Illinois) Public Schools. There, with his team of four executive directors, he oversees 44 schools, 27,000 students, and a $430 million budget.

What was your path to your current position?

After graduating from Tulane [having majored in Spanish], I got an emergency certification to be a bilingual, special-education teacher in Chicago Public Schools. I didn’t think I’d want to be a teacher forever, though, so I started law school in the evenings.

When my principal saw that I was getting burned out, he recommended I teach law as a social studies elective in the general education program. That reignited my passion for teaching. That’s also what prompted me to think about becoming a school administrator—because this principal, making hundreds of choices a day, was able to change the trajectory of my career with one decision.

I got my endorsement to be a principal, went on to be an assistant principal at two high schools in CPS, and then became principal at Roosevelt High School in Rockford. After five years, I got the opportunity to become chief of schools last year.

“Having dinner with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Rome study abroad program was probably one of the top five experiences of my life.”

How does your law degree help?

Besides having an edge in understanding education law, drafting board policy, etcetera, I’m able to fashion a very cogent argument, and my trial law courses helped make me comfortable speaking in front of our Board of Education, the Chamber of Commerce, and the community.

How do you know your work is truly serving others?

Last year was hands-down the most difficult year in education [due to COVID-19]. I started this job in that context, in a district with a freshmen-on-track rate of 67%. That meant one-third of our freshmen were off track to graduate in four years. In just one year, we improved that number to 75%. Statewide, the rate declined about 6%, but we improved, so that's some validation.

Here’s something else: I recently ran into ayoung woman who had been my student at Roosevelt, which was an alternative school for kids who hadn’t had success in a traditional high school environment. Like a lot of kids there, this student had adult responsibilities outside of school; she was a teen parent. So, she took advantage of a dual-credit program that I established where students are able to take classes to get community college credit that also applies towards their Roosevelt graduation requirements. Now she’s working toward her associate degree in early childhood education, and she’s motivated to get her bachelor’s degree after that. I want to make sure every kid sees options for a meaningful career, and maybe it’s just one anecdote, but I know I made a difference for her.

What’s your favorite Loyola law school memory?

Having dinner with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Rome study abroad program was probably one of the top five experiences of my life. --Liz Miller (November 2022)

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