Assistant Superintendent enchanted with New Mexico

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By Jennifer Garcia

The only thing that stays the same is change. If there ever was a believer in this statement, it’s Los Alamos Schools Assistant Superintendent Kate Thomas.

Born and raised in Herndon, Va., Thomas will tell you that she’s a Virginian through and through. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather ran the only grain mill in Fairfax County, Va.

“There were 360 farms and only one grain mill,” she said. Herndon got its first grocery store when she was 10 and the first stoplight in town when she was 21.

Having been raised in a rural environment, Thomas came to enjoy life in the country. She went through the Fairfax County School system and continued on to college at the George Mason College of the University of Virginia, where she received her bachelor’s degree in history.

When she was ready for a change in scenery, she went to Maryland, where she attended graduate school at the University of Maryland. At this point, she decided that she wanted to teach.

“The area where I grew up had completely changed in the ’60s. I graduated from college in 1969. The North Virginia area became built up, and everything was paved over. I needed a place that was more rural to raise my children,” Thomas said.

She received her first masters degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland. She also got her administrator’s certificate at Loyola College in Baltimore.

Thomas began teaching English in Howard County, Maryland, in 1975. She taught there for 20 years, and then was an instructional leader for grades 8 and 9 from 1994-2000.

“I was responsible for the professional development for 27 teachers on my team,” Thomas said. “I made sure the teachers were ready to be observed by the principal.”

In 2000, Kate and her husband Allen embarked on a 10,000 mile, 54 day, 26 state, car camping trip. At that time, they were living on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay.

“We’ve always loved adventurous types of living situations,” Thomas said. While traveling through New Mexico, on their way to visit family in Texas, California and Arizona, the Thomases fell in love with the Land of Enchantment.

“For a woman who came from Virginia, believing that Jamestown was the first capital, coming to Santa Fe was an eye opening experience,” Thomas said. “I was enchanted.”

Thomas said that they fell in love with the weather, energy, art, people, culture and wide-open spaces of New Mexico. She says she loved the Maryland area, but it seems that fate had other plans for her and Allen.

He had to have quintuple heart bypass surgery and was lucky enough to survive it. It was at that point that they decided to leave Maryland because of the congestion, and find somewhere healthier to live.

Thomas and her husband had their sights originally set on either Taos or Santa Fe and submitted applications to both school districts, however, neither of them heard back from either district.

“We had both worked in highly diverse high schools,” Thomas said. “We really wanted to work in Santa Fe or Taos, but they didn’t even return our calls.”

At that point, they decided to submit applications to the Los Alamos Schools.

“Los Alamos called us two weeks after they got our resumes,” she said. “They flew us out here and hired us.”

The Thomases began calling Los Alamos home in 2002. Allen teaches math at Los Alamos High School, while Kate has held a few different positions within the district. She was assistant principal at the high school, and then went to the middle school as the assistant principal. She also served as principal at Chamisa Elementary for two years and was a curriculum coordinator for two years.

She has been the assistant superintendent for two months and loves her job. In her current position, Thomas evaluates all of the principals. She’s also in charge of making sure the district meets Adequate Yearly Progress. In addition, she updates policies and loves working with teachers and parents.

“The teachers, students and families are wonderful. Leadership is energetic and smart,” she said.

Thomas says that she loves how much parents in Los Alamos care about their children. “It’s a very satisfying place to teach,” she said.