Johnsburg feels fortunate to land Tom Ross as AD

Johnsburg principal Kevin Shelton was thrilled when former Jacobs athletic director Tom Ross applied for the Skyhawks’ open position.

With his experience, Ross was a no-brainer choice to make the list of five finalists. Once there, Ross convinced the District 12 administration he would be its man. Ross was officially accepted as AD by the school board in a meeting Saturday morning.

Johnsburg may have had no idea it would land someone like Ross, who spent four years (2008 through 2011) at Jacobs, on such short notice. Former AD Trevor Leopold took a job in Seattle late last month, sending the administration scrambling to post the job opening and interview candidates as quickly as possible.

Ross left Jacobs to become principal at Westwood Elementary School in Woodstock in 2011.

“We were lucky,” Shelton said. “We’re really excited about him coming here. We got some nice proactive phone calls on his behalf; people said he really treated them well as an AD. We’re pretty excited to have someone of that caliber.”

Ross graduated from Fremd in 1979 and was part of the Vikings’ Class AA 4x880-yard relay state championship team. He also placed in the top 12 twice in the Class AA Cross Country State Meet. He ran track and cross country four years at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Ross left Jacobs so he could watch his daughter Jenna, who will be a freshman at Crystal Lake South, play soccer. He missed high school athletics and decided to again seek an AD job.

“Once you get the high school thing in your blood, it’s hard to get rid of,” Ross said. “It drove me back. I missed seeing the kids and the games. I get to see Jenna play a lot because she plays year-round, so I see a lot in the summer.”

Ross will jump in Monday and play catch-up with his new position, which will include teaching one physical education class a day. Former Skyhawks AD Bruce Harbecke has filled in the past two weeks and will help Ross with his transition. They know each other from Ross’ time at Jacobs.

“Bruce is eager to transition me in and, more importantly, get back to his retirement,” Ross said. “The AD’s assistant, Patti Cavanaugh, has a good grasp on everything. It’ll be challenging, especially with sports starting [practices] on Wednesday. The transition will be tough, but manageable.”

Johnsburg will compete one more year in the Fox Valley Conference before returning to the Big Northern Conference. The Skyhawks moved from the BNC to the FVC in the 2006-07 school year, but sagging enrollment numbers initiated talks of returning to the BNC.

Ross admired the FVC’s smallest school while he was at Jacobs for its ability to compete in some sports and its attitude.

“They had a lot of quality athletes, and I liked the sportsmanship of their players,” Ross said. “Their fans really stood out. And with Kevin [Shelton] at the helm, that has helped a lot.”

Fetzners moving on: Nyssa Fetzner and younger brother Jake will compete at NAIA schools this year on athletic and academic scholarships.

Nyssa Fetzner, a 2011 Prairie Ridge graduate, played tennis for two years at McHenry County College and will play at Judson University in Elgin.

Jake Fetzner, a 2013 Prairie Ridge grad, will play lacrosse at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. He will be a part of the Fighting Bees’ first lacrosse team.

• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone. 

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