Cumberland School Department

2602 Mendon Road

Cumberland, RI 02864

Press Release

July 2, 2021

The Cumberland School Committee is pleased to announce the arrival of Dr. Philip D. Thornton to the position of Superintendent of the Cumberland Public Schools.  

Dr. Thornton was appointed to the position at the school committee meeting on April 29, 2021, and officially started in the position on July 1st.  

Dr. Thornton brings 14 years experience as a superintendent, with four of those being in Cumberland from 2011-2015 and most recently in Warwick from 2015-2021. He also has eleven years of experience as assistant principal, curriculum director, and assistant superintendent. He began his career as a history teacher.

Dr. Thornton received his bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Colby College, his master’s in Secondary Administration at Providence College, and his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Johnson & Wales. 


“I am very excited to be leading Cumberland Schools and am ready to begin my work. I welcome all opportunities to engage the Cumberland school community and town at large,” said Dr. Thornton.  “I do have an open door policy and am available for any member of the community to come in and visit with me to discuss Cumberland’s future.”

A Superintendent Search Committee comprised of teachers; school staff; administration; elected officials; and community members overwhelmingly recommended Dr. Thornton as the successful candidate to the School Committee.   The Committee would like to thank all who took part in the selection process for enthusiastically participating and providing great insights throughout. This outcome would not have been possible without the active participation of our community. Community members, parents, staff members, and students shared with the Committee their perspectives, opinions, concerns, and ideas through the various meetings, focus groups, and surveys.  That information formed the foundation of the criteria the Committee used to evaluate candidates.  

During Dr. Thornton’s previous tenure as Superintendent in Cumberland he had a number of accomplishments:

  • Moved Cumberland from part-time to full-time kindergarten
  • Advocated for one-to-one technology at the middle and high schools with the introduction of Chromebooks
  • Created common planning time and professional development time across the district
  • Began alignment of our curriculum and assessments to standards
  • Made changes at the high school which enabled it to be taken off warning status by the accrediting agency
  • Implemented comprehensive school safety upgrades in all schools
  • Revamped achievement across all content areas 
  • Hired our first math interventionists
  • And he laid the foundation for the great achievement results we’ve had since.

“Dr. Thornton knows Cumberland extremely well, including our strengths and where we need to focus – he is the right leader for the challenges we face.” said Committee Chairperson Karen Freedman. “Not only is he a strong leader who can hit the ground running and can handle all the challenges the district is facing, but he’ll continue to lead the growth and academic success the district has made since he was a pivotal member of the team that began the changes responsible for the successes now being achieved. I am excited to have Dr. Thornton work closely with Assistant Superintendent DiManna, the rest of the administration team, and the school committee, to continue to move Cumberland forward.”

Dr. Thornton’s wife is a high school science teacher and they have three (3) children attending college and high school.


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