Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TOP STORY >>District head sees progress

Leader staff writer

It’s been a whirlwind first year for the superintendent of Cabot Public Schools, but Dr. Tony Thurman says he’s looking forward to representing the district for a long time as he and his team work to make one of the state’s best school districts even better.

“I take tremendous pride in representing our district as superintendent,” he told The Leader this week. “Cabot is a great place to live and raise a family. We have one of the most outstanding school districts in Arkansas, but there are always areas in which to improve.”

The challenge before him is to build on the great things Cabot schools already have in place, something he promised to do when he got the job.

Thurman was one of 22 people, including five from within the Cabot district, who applied for the position as chief of Cabot schools when then Superintendent Dr. Frank Holman announced he was resigning in March 2007.

Thurman switched roles from high school principal to superintendent of a district with an over 9,000 strong student population at the end of the 2006-07 school year after Holman returned to the Lincoln Consolidated School District near Fayetteville where he had worked for 16 years.

When the school board an-nounced he had been chosen, Thurman, 39, said he would do everything in his power “to continue Cabot’s tradition (of excellence) and make us only bigger and better.”

To his credit, he’s got a pretty good record so far as a first-time superintendent — not only did Cabot schools receive district accreditation during its AdvancEd visit in March, but voters also passed a 3.9 mills increase too.

“Obviously, the success of the millage campaign is the most important accomplishment of the year. I’m so thankful to our patrons for being supportive and I assure everyone that we will be good stewards of public funds,” Thurman said.

He’s proud that the district was able to earn full district accreditation too — “this was huge for our district,” Thurman said.

He told The Leader he must now bring about effective change in the areas needing improvement and must implement a long-term systemic structure that ensures success for students and a positive working environment for staff.

He admits being superintendent is more challenging than he thought it would be, but he wouldn’t change a thing.

“The job never ends and the stress involved can be totally consuming if allowed to be,” he said. “I would still apply for the position even knowing the amount of work involved. I really enjoy my job.”

Although he said he was happy being the high school principal, he applied for the superintendent position as a way to stay in a district he loves and work with all the students in the district. He doesn’t regret making the move to the central administration office, but it gives him less time for day-to-day interaction.

“I wouldn’t say that I regret moving from building level administrator to district level, but I do miss the students, faculty and parents,” Thurman said. “I made the decision to apply for the position with the full understanding that things would really change. I have really missed the day-to-day involvement with the students, parents and faculty members and it has been a difficult transition at times.”

“My favorite part of the day as principal was the morning, lunch and afternoon duty blocks when I could visit with the kids. I still visit schools as much as possible, but it is in a very different role,” he added.

The transition also brought adjustments for his family – wife Tara Leigh, a Cabot elementary school teacher, and two children, Ryane Elizabeth and Rhett Jackson, both in elementary school.

“The adjustment has been a challenge for my wife and children. I’m considerably more busy now than I was as high school principal,” Thurman said, “but I’m very fortunate that my family likes to be involved in school activities. We attend sporting events, plays, banquets, musicals and award ceremonies together as much as possible.”