A strong advocate of equality and excellence in education for all children, Dr. Shirley Thornton served as Deputy Superintendent of the Specialized Programs Branch of the California Department of Education from 1986 through 1995. She also served as Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Marin Community foundation. She was named to the board by the Foundation’s first trustees in 1986, and was re-appointed to a second term. She is a retired Colonel in the United States Army Reserves, with her last assignment as a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Thornton was a strong voice and prime ‘mover and shaker’ to improve programs statewide in career vocational educational special education and adult education, state special schools, alternative education and programs for ‘at-risk’ youth.
Dr. Thornton’s contribution to education is most visible in the bold and innovative program she instituted ten years ago, the California Local Educational Reform Network, C-LERN. With technical assistance, resources and training provided by Dr. Thornton’s division, C-LERN schools, including the San Rafael City Schools, learned to transform their organization to meet the needs of students more effectively by providing equal opportunity for all students regardless of ethnicity, race, linguistic, social or economic differences.