The board unanimously chose Thomas after Superintendent Jim McIntyre announced in January he would soon step down.
“I’m certainly eager about the work, enthusiastic about that, and honored to be asked to step forward in this kind of transition period to help move our district forward," Thomas said.
He is currently the president of Great Schools Partnership, which is a non-profit that started in 2005.
It acts as a support group for the district, funding after-school programs and helping students and teachers achieve more in the classroom.
As interim superintendent, he hopes to boost teacher morale and renew a focus on student reading level.
“Only 47 percent of our third graders are proficient readers. That’s unacceptable," he said. "Half of our graduating seniors last year made below a 21 on the ACT, which is the minimum benchmark for college and career readiness. How are we going to address that problem?”
He said his term will likely last no more than a year.
“I like the job I have. I’m excited about the new challenges and the opportunity, but I also look forward to being the president of Great Schools Partnership again," he said.
“I don’t have a lot of K through 12 teaching experience," Thomas continued. "I was a college professor for a while, I taught law at Georgetown University and that’s great, but that’s very different from teaching a room of first graders that are required by law to be there.”
Great Schools Partnership Treasurer, and Knoxville Chamber President, Mike Edwards said he expects Thomas to thrive in his new role.
“An interim period can be very disruptive for any organization, and particularly a school district," Edwards said. "I think that his will be not interruptive. I think he will be able to lead with great grace and wisdom, and we’ll be just fine.”
He said the experience Thomas gains working for Knox County Schools will not only benefit students and teachers in that realm, but also come back to help the nonprofit organization.
“While his leadership will be clearly missed, I don’t think we’ll miss a beat in the schools where we’re doing projects,” Edwards said. “When he returns, he will be even much better prepared to lead the Great Schools.”
Great Schools Partnership will soon meet to choose its interim president to replace Thomas, as he starts his new post around June.