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There's a new boss in town

FALLS CITY -- You might say a career in education was a perfect fit for Jack Thompson, Falls City School District's new K-12 principal and superintendent.

Oregon-native Jack Thompson, 48, will serve as superintendent and K-12 principal for the Falls City School District.

Photo by Pete Strong

Oregon-native Jack Thompson, 48, will serve as superintendent and K-12 principal for the Falls City School District.

July 17, 2013

FALLS CITY -- You might say a career in education was a perfect fit for Jack Thompson, Falls City School District's new K-12 principal and superintendent.

After all, he's had more younger siblings than most people could imagine -- and he loved the role of being an older brother.

"My parents were foster parents for about 35 years," Thompson said. "I was 4 when they brought the first foster child into our house. I've had over 150 brothers and sisters over the 35 years.

"That's just how I grew up, being around kids and enjoying kids," he continued. "I just thought I enjoy doing it, I might as well keep doing it. Do what you love and you never go to work a day in your life."

His "nonwork" days began in the Sublimity School District, working as a Title I teacher. From there he worked as a teacher in the Gervais and Salem-Keizer school districts before taking his first administrative job as a behavior specialist at Leslie Middle School in Salem.

While Thompson loved being a teacher, he felt conflicted about how schools were being run.

"We didn't have shining star teachers in every classroom," he said. "I wasn't seeing that."

Thompson believed he had two choices: stop worrying and complaining about it or do something. He set his sights on improving the situation by becoming an administrator.

Now, several years after taking his first administrative post, Thompson is looking to make a difference for Falls City schools.

"My learning curve is straight up right now," Thompson joked Friday, as he completed his first week on the job.

That doesn't mean that Thompson doesn't have big plans; he's already working on a plan to position the district as a leader in the region.

"I want to make Falls City a destination school," he said.

It's an ambitious goal, especially for a school district that has suffered more than its share of financial hardships in recent years. Thompson and the district will rely on innovation -- and tradition -- to set Falls City schools apart.

Thompson is a strong supporter of plans set in motion by the previous administrative team to purchase iPads for use in classrooms. He said education using mobile devices is making advances comparable to when desktop computers were introduced in schools.

"What kids are able to do with technology now is mind-boggling," he said. "When you purchase a textbook (the information in it) is already three years old. ... With iPads students can get up-to-date information on the spot, immediately."

On the flip side, Thompson wants to encourage a more old-fashioned, but effective teaching method: teachers spending more time with individual students.

"I think we should restore the face-to-face contact between staff and students so we can meet their needs more directly," he said.

Financially speaking, Thompson believes the time is right to begin conversations about enhancing programs.

He said with the approval of $6.55 billion in state education funding for 2013-15, up from about $5.75 billion in 2011-13, that signals that schools may be able to consider adding programs.

Taking schools off "life support," as Thompson characterized funding in recent years, doesn't mean districts won't have difficult decisions ahead of them.

"You have to be equally as strategic when adding new programs as you were when you were removing programs," he said. "It's just an easier conversation."

Falls City will begin those discussions as soon as this month as the district considers purchasing new technology.

"I hope to have it in place by the end of the year," Thompson said.

In the meantime, Thompson's other top priority is getting to know the community. He will be attending games and talking with parents, as well as getting out of his office to observe teachers and work with children in classrooms.

"It's great watching master teachers teach," he said. "As a teacher you don't get to see that, the exciting lessons and seeing the kids' eyes light up ... It's amazing to watch."

The Jack Thompson File

Age: 48.

Family: Wife, Deanna; three daughters, Brooke, Brittney and Ashley.

Hometown: Monitor, located southeast of Woodburn.

Favorite movie: The "Star Wars" series. He saw the first installment eight times.

Favorite book: "The Cay" by Theodore Taylor (a book he read to students as a teacher).

Favorite hobby: "Wrenching" -- repairing or rebuilding projects, such as a motorcycle he recently restored. Taking destination-less motorcycle trips is another favorite summer pastime.

Favorite food: Pizza.

Favorite sports team: Football -- Chicago Bears; Basketball -- Portland Trailblazers.

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