L Jim Thompson

Lowell James Thompson

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For years Bozeman High School had two popular teachers named Jim Thompson. And now it’s getting a new Jim Thompson.

Lowell James “Jim” Thompson, 45, a middle school principal from Juneau, Alaska, has been hired as one of the assistant principals at Bozeman High, starting July 1.

Bozeman School Board trustees voted 8-0 this week to hire him from among 29 applicants and six finalists for the position. Thompson “rose to the top,” said Pat Strauss, human resources director.

“He’s a consummate professional,” said Bozeman High Principal Dan Mills, calling Thompson “an excellent complement to our team.”

“We’re really excited,” Thompson said in a phone interview from his home in Alaska, where he lives with his wife, Sanaye, a high school counselor, and 9-year-old son, Turner. “We also have a heavy heart. We’ve loved our experience in Juneau.”

Thompson, principal for six years of 461-student Floyd Dryden Middle School, said he’s looking forward to living closer to family in Idaho, where he grew up.

He said he’s excited about working in the Bozeman School District because it embraces progressive educational ideas and offers more chances to work collaboratively on a team. Juneau can feel isolating at times, he said. And he expressed concern that budget cuts in Alaska schools would mean larger class sizes for his son.

Next school year Thompson will be one of three Bozeman High assistant principals, working with Katie Laslovich and Justin Helvik under Mills. Assistant Principal Randy Van Dyk will move to new Gallatin High with Principal Erica Schnee.

Bozeman High will have more assistant principals next year because it will have more students, Strauss said. Gallatin High will open with no seniors in its first year.

School Board Chair Andy Willett said Thompson’s resume is very impressive, and includes work with special needs students.

“I’m very passionate about working with underserved populations,” Thompson said. “I’m a strong advocate for students with special needs and those who are less fortunate.”

Thompson was born and raised in Pocatello, and earned a degree in history and teaching certificate from Idaho State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Idaho.

He worked in the Nampa, Idaho, schools from 2003 to 2014 as a teacher, assistant principal and special education administrator.

In college he said he worked as a fishing guide in Wolf Creek, Montana. In his videoconference with the school board, he came across as gregarious, saying that as much as he likes salmon fishing, he still misses fishing with small flies for trout.

Thompson said he was impressed that Bozeman plans to open a second high school while avoiding creating a lot of animosity between the two schools, something he had seen happen when new schools opened in Nampa and Juneau.

He used phrases from the indigenous Tlingit language as he described his philosophy of “oneness.”

It means, he said, “I’m better when I’m around people who accentuate areas where I need to grow. I share with my students that it’s very important to be part of something larger than yourself.”

The assistant principal’s position will pay between $97,000 and $108,500, according to the job description.

Trustee Gary Lusin said he’d served on the school board 15 years and there has always been teachers named Jim Thompson at Bozeman High – Jim L., now retired, and Jim H., still teaching English.

“Those are some pretty big shoes to fill,” Lusin told Thompson. “It sounds like you’re very talented and able.”

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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