CARY – The last time District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas was on a bus, he was playing football at Southern Illinois University.
The top administrator at the district welcomed a new school year Monday by taking the bus to Cary-Grove High School alongside students.
The morning commute from Cary Country Club to the high school was the first of many for students, and also the start of a new era for the district. Thomas takes over for longtime Superintendent Jill Hawk.
“Hopefully, this is the start of something special,” Thomas said. “Everything is ready to go to ensure the students are ready to learn, and it is going to be fun to see the teachers do what they do best.”
It also was a fresh start for students heading to school for another year.
“I’m not nervous at all,” said freshman Adrianna Magnone, who recently moved to Cary from Palatine. “This is a brand-new start for me, and I am looking forward to high school.”
Junior Corrin Meyer agreed.
“It’s just another year, but it’s a new year and a fresh start,” she said.
Thomas was associate superintendent for student services at Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights for the past 2 1⁄2 years. He now oversees District 155’s four high schools in Crystal Lake and Cary, a $90 million budget, more than 700 employees and about 7,000 students.
“Everything is new, and all my avenues are covered,” the 38-year-old said. “It’s like the start of the NFL season, everyone is undefeated.”
Thomas was executive director for student services at Valley View Community Unit School District 365U before joining District 214. He worked in that district for six years.
Thomas started his career in education as a social worker for Chicago Public Schools, where he worked for six years. He has a doctorate in education leadership from DePaul University.
He officially began his career at District 155 on July 1 – stepping in for Hawk, who retired after seven years as superintendent .
Under the terms of Thomas’ three-year contract, which was approved by the school board earlier this year, he will be paid $182,000 a year.