As a teenager, Jamie Thomas didn’t feel she had an adult at school who was a champion for her.
But as Badger Ridge Middle School’s next principal, Thomas is looking to build the relationships so children attending her school won’t feel that way.
“I want every single one of our students to have an adult who unequivocally cares for them,” she told the Press last week.
Thomas, who has been the associate principal for Badger Ridge since fall of 2018, will succeed principal Alan Buss when he retires at the end of June. The Verona Area Board of Education approved her contract earlier this month.
Buss said he and Thomas come from similar backgrounds. She created a mentoring program for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County early in her career and worked as a social worker for the Madison Metropolitan School District, while he spent part of his career as a school psychologist.
Both, he said, ended up in administrative roles that focus largely on student behavior and creating the right school climate.
“I knew she had the wherewithal to come in and work hard developing a climate and culture of high expectations, but also warm relationships,” he said. “The district’s mission of ‘Every student must be successful,’ she lives that.”
Thomas said what she finds most fulfilling about working with middle schoolers is the transformation they undergo during their three years, as they begin to delve into deeper social emotional issues and start to form their own identities.
“I love middle schoolers,” she said. “I love the quirkiness of middle schoolers, I love the change that students go through from sixth grade to eighth grade – it’s like a whole different student by the time they leave middle school.”
The Green Bay native who majored in human development and family studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison said she knew she always wanted to work with children – at the time, she just didn’t know in what way.
It was her school-based mentoring program work and her exposure to education through school social workers that made Thomas realize she wanted to work in an environment where she could have an influence on the whole child, rather than just a piece of their development, she said.
After receiving a master’s in school social work, Thomas worked with the Urban League of Greater Madison in a middle school setting before going to MMSD, where she also was a Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports coach and a dean of students.
“As a social worker, there’s a lot of social-emotional pieces,” she said. “I felt like being in the schools, I could really bring together serving the whole child and families.”
In early July, Verona Area School District summer school coordinators Amy Tranel and Jamie Thomas were facing a problem they’d never had to co…