Jerome says goodbye to Gator Nation

Superintendent Tom Jerome thanked and spoke to members of the Greenbush-Middle River Robotics team at the June 17 GMR School Board meeting after they presented him with a framed movie poster of “small town ROBOT,” a documentary film about the GMR Robotics team. Before officially beginning on as the new Roseau Superintendent, Jerome said he would miss both these school districts, including both districts’ students. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Superintendent Tom Jerome smiles before presenting the state championship trophy to one of the school districts he served— the Badger School District— at the Minnesota State High School League State Robotics Tournament at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on May 18. Having resigned as the Superintendent at the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River schools–effective June 30– Jerome expressed how proud he was of everything these districts accomplished during his time with them inside and outside the classroom. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

For the past nine years, Superintendent Tom Jerome has occupied an office in the Badger School and for the past seven years offices in the Greenbush-Middle River (GMR) School. His time with these two districts officially came to an end on June 30, 2019. These office spaces are now filled by new faces, Superintendent-Principal Kevin Ricke in Badger and Superintendent Larry Guggisberg at Greenbush-Middle River.

Before Jerome left each of his offices for the last time and headed to his new office as Superintendent of the Roseau School District, he sat down to discuss his time within both the Badger and GMR school districts–getting emotional at times while doing so– and express how proud he was of what they had each accomplished. Some staff members from each school district also shared their thoughts on Jerome, explaining what he brought to their district and what they will miss about having him there.

Hearing about Roseau School Superintendent Larry Guggisberg’s notice of retirement the second week in February, Jerome thought “on and off” about applying for the Roseau Superintendent position, but didn’t make the decision to do so until April 22– just hours before the application deadline.

“I love where I work. I love the two districts (Badger and GMR) I serve,” Jerome said. “Like everybody else in these two districts, I have put a lot of heart and energy and passion into these two places.”

He felt honored and humbled to be offered the Roseau School Superintendent position. Coming to the decision he did– to submit an application– was not an easy one. It was difficult thanks to many factors– the “amazing” students in each district and their accomplishments, the staff members’ commitment, the community support, the districts’ great treatment of him and his family, and the journeys he has taken with each of these school districts.

“It was really hard for me to submit an application because we have committed so much time and energy to supporting each other and making great things happen for our districts and for our students–trying to– and have taken so much pride in who we are,” Jerome said. “… It seemed, at times, almost disrespectful or you know, I almost felt like a turncoat to apply for another position.”

Speaking of students, staff members in both districts highlighted Jerome’s focus on these students, one teacher saying that was “one of the best things” about working with him. They explained how he showed this student-centered focus, from providing students opportunities to attending their many events.

“Mr. Jerome has been a big part of our school and has been very supportive of all the extra programs in our school,” GMR Third Grade teacher and former Gator Head Wrestling Coach Todd Bergeron said via email. “He was always great about making time to stop and talk to you and ask how we were doing or congratulate us on our efforts. As the wrestling coach that meant a lot to me and our team. He was a true Gator.”

The support he has shown to the music program has meant much to GMR Music teacher Jeanne Novacek.

“I have appreciated his attendance at concerts and support of our music program – thanks, Tom,” Novacek said via email.

This focus on students has remained so in even the most difficult of times, as explained by GMR Social Studies teacher and Gator Boys’ Basketball and Softball Head Coach Kent Christian.

“Mr. Jerome has led the GMR School District through some incredible challenging times,” Christian said via email. “I am not too sure too many people realize what Mr. Jerome has gone through to keep our school district financially intact. He has always looked out for what he felt was best for the children in our school district.”

During his time in both districts, he has supported not just his students, but also his staff, proven by several Badger and GMR staff members’ comments.

“I have appreciated Mr. Jerome’s support and leadership in the past years at Badger School. I have also appreciated the fact that he is an advocate for teachers,” Badger High School English teacher Becky Dahlgren said. “None of us expect red carpet treatment in this line of business, but a simple ‘Thank you for your work’ from Mr. Jerome always hit the spot!”

He has, as Badger Social Studies teacher Brady Johnson explained, helped create a culture in the Badger School and community.

“It would be easy to say that we have good colleagues, and co-workers in our district… However, due to Mr Jerome’s leadership, the majority of the people I run into view the staff, school, and community members in the Badger area as family,” Johnson said via email. “I am certain that our school will miss the way he stresses and follows through with… ‘At the Badger School, we take care of each other.’”

When asked how he hoped or wanted to be remembered, Jerome paused for about 20 seconds before answering.

“I can’t control how I’m remembered or what people will choose to remember. But I know who I am,” Jerome said getting a little choked up. “And, as superintendents of these two districts, I know that I put the needs of our students above anything else.”

These two districts gave him his start as a superintendent and it was a honor and privilege serving them both, he said. He has enjoyed nothing more than creating opportunities for the districts’ students and watching the result: their success.

“I am going to miss these two districts very much. And I will always be thankful for my time here and grateful for the opportunities these districts provided me,” Jerome said. “And I will always be grateful for the manner in which they accepted and treated my family… I’m not running from anyone, running from any issue, looking to leave something behind.”

Before leaving these two districts, he expressed knowing that he played a part in each of them and that he, “undoubtedly,” failed to meet every person’s expectations.

“I also feel like I can walk out the front door of both at these districts when I’m done because I know how far we have all come together due to our combined efforts,” Jerome said. “There’s a big part of my heart in these two districts.”

As Jerome explained, one can’t erase his time, energy, and passion towards these districts, and he doesn’t want to do that. He is excited about the opportunity to serve the Roseau School District, but won’t forget his time in Gator Country.

“I’ll never look back on my time here without smiling and feeling really fortunate and really thankful and grateful for our time working together,” Jerome said. “Despite the fact that I’m moving to another district, I really look forward to being in the same gymnasiums and playing fields and whatever is with Gator staff and kids next year.”

To see the complete story, read the July 10 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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