Last week the Marlboro School Board approved hiring Jena Thomas as the new Assistant Principal at the High School at an annual salary of $105,000. She replaces Bruce Cortalano, who retired late last year. Thomas starts on April 13 and her probationary period runs through April 12, 2024.
Superintendent Michael Brooks introduced Thomas to the public.
“Tonight after a very exhaustive search and a difficult and challenging process, I’m proud to introduce Jena Thomas who has certifications as a School Building Leader, a School District Leader, in Literacy grades 5 -12 and in Social Studies grades 7-12. Thomas earned a BA in Social Studies at the College of St. Rose and a Masters Degree in Literacy at SUNY New Paltz. Jena, welcome to Marlboro.”
Thomas applied for the Assistant Principal position after hearing about the opening from friends who live in the community.
“I’ve been waiting a really long time to work in Marlboro; this is where I always hoped to end up, working in the community in which I live, serving students and helping positively shape their education,” she said.
Thomas graduated from Cornwall High School and in 2011 she and her husband moved to Marlborough. Previously, she taught Social Studies for a decade at the S.S. Seward Institute in Florida, NY and in the summer of 2019 she was hired as an Assistant Principal at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park.
When the job opened up in Marlboro, however, Thomas knew that, “this was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.”
Thomas said she always enjoyed teaching in the classroom but as an Assistant Principal, “I really was excited to reach a broader range of students. I enjoy helping students through challenging situations, supporting them inside and outside the classroom and collaborating with teachers and families.”
As a local resident Thomas will not miss commuting, noting that, “my children will go here eventually...This community has given my husband and I so much and it’s really exciting for me to give back.”
Thomas described Marlborough as a “tight knit community with a lot of families who are involved in the school. We have great programs, excellent academics, the arts and athletics are flourishing; it’s just a great place to be.”
Thomas summed up her feelings on being chosen for this new position.
“I am truly humbled to have this opportunity and I look forward to having a presence in the community and in the school and working with families and students,” she said.
Principal Ryan Lawler met Thomas through the interview process.
“She impressed the building level team and the district office team,” he said. “We were very impressed with her candidacy and we’re very happy she’s the choice for us.”
Lawler said Thomas’ attitude, enthusiasm and experience stood out for him.
“She really takes her job seriously and gets things done,” he said. “I’m very excited our school is going in a new direction and we’re very happy to welcome her onboard.”
Superintendent Brooks said the hiring process starts with a review of resumes that are submitted for the position. This is narrowed down to a number of candidates who are invited for interviews at the High School. Finalists are then chosen who are interviewed at the Administrative level.
“Then we spend time vetting, interviewing, reference checking that is done by Mr. Lawler, the Assistant Superintendents and myself,” Brooks said. “Then we decide as a collective group who will advance to the final stage to be the finalist. I have a one on one interview with them, finalize our reference checking and present them for hire to the school board.”
Brooks said the candidate chosen has to have, “a passion for what they’re going to do, so I want to look for a person who had a passion for what they taught. Jena had a passion when she taught Social Studies and now is moving into our administrative work.”
Brooks said an Assistant Principal should be someone, “who can hold the line of a standard and expect a lot academically, socially, emotionally but also figure out how to support students...I look for that person and there were a lot of good candidates, so we were fortunate, but she [Thomas] edged them out, she’s just a solid person.”
Brooks acknowledged what he saw in Thomas.
“She was engaging, she’s passionate for children and wants to help them to get from places where they are to better places, wherever it is. It’s not about being in a bad place to getting to a good place, it’s taking someone from where they are and helping them navigate to their graduation and graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning.”