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McKenzie's new superintendent

Jim Thomas will head District 68

Jim ThomasFINN ROCK: Besides having an “appointment not necessarily needed” open door policy, new McKenzie Schools  superintendent Jim Thomas doesn’t want to spend all his time in his office. During a community interview process last Monday he told people he felt a good part of his role would be to reach out and “pull people together.”

“A lot of people don’t want to come to a school because it’s too formal,” Thomas said. “But if you go to a back yard and sit down you can talk with people about what’s going on and what they’d like the school to be doing.”

Thomas comes to the area with an administrative resume that started with as a K-12 principal in Detroit Lake in 1992 after having been a teacher in California and working in the private sector for nine years.

He also served in Riddle as a 6-12 principal and was the superintendent/principal in Monument for three years. That was followed by an eight year superintendent position in Scio, where he started the first online statewide school in Oregon.

Retirement, he found after moving  to Pendleton, wasn’t what he was looking for after, “Two months of coffee and donuts with the local farmers and ranchers,” Deciding to go back to work, he was hired as a vice principal at Central Middle School in Milton-Freewater, That two year stint was followed by a job as superintendent of schools in Craig, Alaska. After three years there he moved back to Oregon, becoming the superintendent and Highland Elementary School principal in Reedsport.

Thomas said people look for some basic things in life - like food, shelter, clothing and, “Wanting your kids to be successful.”

People want schools to do a good job educating kids, he added, saying, “That takes cooperation between the school and a community working together to get things done.” One way to build that sort of cooperation, he felt, could come through the creation of an advisory committee.

“Sometimes if you can’t have people come to you, you have to go to them,” Thomas said. “Anytime you serve food in any place, people will show.”

Besides his open door policy, Thomas said  he believes it is important to make students feel they’re welcome when they come to school. “The reality is kids in poverty need more help because they’re struggling every day to get there,” he said.

Thomas said he made it a point to learn students names. One way he did that was by standing the school’s front door every morning to greet them. “It’s really important to get out there, get involved and know your kids,” he added.

In addition, on June 4th the school board voted to hire current Social Studies teacher Lane Tompkins as the new K/12 principal.

Image above: James Thomas resigned from his job in Reedsport where the superintendent/principal positions are combined.


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