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Dobie Thom is new principal at KHS

The principal’s office at Kenmare High School may be new to Robert “Dobie” Thom, but he is already familiar with many of the traditions and staff members of the Honkers.

7/27/11 (Wed)


The principal’s office at Kenmare High School may be new to Robert “Dobie” Thom, but he is already familiar with many of the traditions and staff members of the Honkers.


Thom grew up in Mohall and earned his bachelor’s degree in education at Minot State University. “I’ve never left my backyard, partly by design,” he said. “I’ve always really liked this area of North Dakota.”


Thom officially started his job at KHS on July 18th, although he actually arrived in town earlier and spent a fair amount of time at the school. He has worked in education for 28 years, starting with a contract in Westhope in 1983 as a physical education and health instructor. Two years later, he was offered a job at Des Lacs-Burlington High School as a teacher and a coach.


While at DLB, a colleague encouraged him to pursue an advanced degree in administration. “He said, ‘Let’s go do it. Who says we have to go into administration?’” Thom recalled. “He’s now an assistant superintendent at Mandan.”


Thom earned his master’s degree in school administration from the University of Mary, with secondary principal and superintendent certifications, and took on the high school principal’s role in Glenburn in 1995. He held that position for five years then moved into the superintendent’s office.


In 2005, he returned to Westhope as the secondary principal and superintendent, where the children of some of his first students were enrolled in the school system.


His duties there expanded to fill other needs, including teaching some of the physical education and health classes last year as well as driving a morning bus route. “I was very involved with the students on a daily basis,” he said.


Scott Faul’s move to Minot High School and the vacancy at KHS attracted Thom’s attention. Knowing of Kenmare’s reputation as a strong school district, he decided to apply for the position. He will also serve as the district’s activities director.


“I’m so impressed with what I’ve seen already,” he said, describing recent dealings with the office and teaching staff and the school board. “I know it’s a well-run school.”


College sports influenced Thom’s career path

Sports have been a major factor throughout Thom’s career. He started college at MSU in the nursing program. “In the late 1970s, there was a big demand for male nurses,” he said. However, Thom also played football for the Beavers and during his junior year, he had to choose between the demands of the nursing degree and the football schedule.


“I really enjoyed playing, so I switched [my major] to education,” he said. “I wanted to be a coach and a teacher.”


Thom has been a football, girls and boys basketball and American Legion baseball coach in the past, as well as officiating games at high schools throughout the area. Last year, he coached the track program at Westhope for his first venture into that sport. In Kenmare, he hopes to focus on his administrative role. “This is going to be a challenging enough job the way it is,” he said, adding that he may get involved in a limited capacity with the sports programs for the younger grade levels.


He admitted his first challenge will be to simply learn the layout of the building and the new classrooms. “One of my goals, by semester time, is to know my way around this school,” he said, laughing.


For Thom, the roles of coach and school administrator have much in common, especially regarding organization and communication. “I sometimes liken administration to coaching,” he said. “It’s just a different team. Leadership goes into being an effective administrator. That, in the same light as coaching, interests me.”


He appreciates the work Faul started with the KHS teachers related to curriculum and the North Dakota state standards for each subject area, and intends to continue that emphasis. “And I know some pretty major changes have happened here in the area of technology,” he said. “I support that, but that’s something that is going to have to be planned out well to be used successfully.”


Because he’ll be out of the classroom this year, Thom hopes to meet the Kenmare student body in positive situations, rather than disciplinary encounters. He holds high expectations for student behavior.


“I’m a firm believer that learning can’t take place unless discipline is being maintained,” he said, describing honesty, respect and good citizenship as being just as important in a school as the three R’s. “I’m of an old-school mindset when it comes to student behavior.”


He added that he believes that while no school has perfect kids, at least 90 percent of the kids in most schools are great kids, and that students can respect the school’s rules without the principal acting as a dictator. “I want the kids to feel comfortable communicating with me, but I know it will take a while for that to happen,” he said.


When he’s not sitting at the principal’s desk or meeting with teachers and students, Thom may be found pursuing some of his other interests. “I’m a pretty avid outdoor person,” he said. “I like to fish and I really enjoy hunting, specifically bowhunting.”


He has been a member of the Metigoshe Lions Club in Bottineau and hopes to slowly get involved with events and organizations in Kenmare as he becomes acquainted with the community.


Thom is also the father of three children, including a son who died in an accident three years ago. His elder daughter is a junior in the nursing program at NDSU while his younger daughter will be a freshman at UND this fall, pursuing her interest in optometry.


And while he’s getting accustomed to his new office, his new school and his new town, Thom hopes parents help him and their children by communicating their thoughts and questions. “One thing about being new to any school or community if that from my position, parents need to know I welcome them to come in and visit about any concerns they may have,” he said. “It would help me to better get to know the community. That’s the way things are solved best.”


Thom can be contacted at Kenmare High School this summer Monday through Thursday by calling 701-385-4996. KHS students and their parents can also meet Thom during school registration, scheduled for Monday, August 1st, from 9 am to 12 noon and 1 to 3 pm, and Tuesday, August 2nd, from 9 am until 12 noon.