Sharon Thomas came to Colorado Springs in 1983 after she finished her doctoral studies at UCLA. She stayed until 2002.
She returned this year to become superintendent for Colorado Springs School District 11.
While she was in Colorado Springs, she completed the requirements for her administrative certificate from the University of Denver. Her first job here was as a waitress at The Broadmoor.
After about a year, she landed a job with District 11 and during the next 19 years served in various positions, including principal, human resources director and legal counsel.
Thomas recently took time to tell CSBJ about herself and the district.
Hometown: I was born in Detroit, Mich., – although, I now consider Colorado Springs my home.
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: I am starting my 20th year here – I first arrived in Colorado Springs in 1983.
Education: Doctorate in school administration and policy analysis from UCLA; master’s degree in curriculum and bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio; law degree from the University of Denver.
A few words about your company: Colorado Springs School District 11 is the largest and, I would guess, the most diverse school district in the Pikes Peak Region.
District 11 serves about 30,000 students from pre-school through the pre-collegiate years in more than 60 learning sites, and offers students a large number of specialized program – from career-technical to musical, visual and performing arts to alternative secondary programs to a variety of middle school exploratories and other unique middle school opportunities to various elementary programs specializing in basic skills to gifted and talented programs to International Baccalaureate programs to formalized special education services to an array of co-curricular student activities – just to name a few.
I am particularly proud of District 11 because, in my mind, it looks like and represents the diversity that is America. Our schools are fortunate enough to be populated by students, parents and staff from almost every ethnic group and walk of life.
Recent accomplishments: Besides becoming the District 11 superintendent – of which I am most proud – helping pull my former school district out of statutory operating debt, passing a major operating referendum (levy) there and passing three fiscally-responsible school district budgets.
Biggest career break: Getting my first teaching job in 1972.
The toughest part of your job: Finding enough hours in the day to be in schools, meet with parents and staff, be available to the community and lead the district in its efforts to be the best.
Someone you admire: Mary Phillips, an eighty-something-year-old friend of mine from Little Falls, Minn. She is a former journalist and all-round great person. She epitomizes her generation with good humor, a great attitude, much wisdom and an always-positive outlook.
About your family: I am married to Ben Glidden, a stockbroker and financial planner here in Colorado Springs. Our family includes three dogs, Robert, Joey and Josephine. While I have no children myself, Ben does have three grown children, all of whom live out of state and have growing families of their own.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: For now, just working with our staff to make District 11 the best school district in the state is accomplishment enough.
How your business will change in the next decade: School districts will likely provide even more options for students to learn key skills and earn credits toward graduation than they do now – although the array of options available to District 11 families and students is impressive now. It may also be the case that more work is completed on-line, as opposed to with hard-copy textbooks.
However, from my perspective, the secret of a fine education is not just the techniques, equipment and programs that are available to students – rather, the secret is the “magic” that occurs between student and a great teacher.
What book are you currently reading? "Good to Great" by Jim Collins
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I would encourage young families – and others – to take a second look at the southern and western parts of the city. Both of these areas have located within them affordable homes in lovely neighborhoods, each with a strong sense of community.
Those neighborhoods also contain many small, welcoming and nurturing neighborhood schools – some with early 20th century architecture. Other than that, I think that Colorado Springs is pretty much close to perfection.