Michael Thomas grew up on the rural Eastern Shore of Virginia, but the family business of raising harness racing horses often brought him through Dover.

Michael Thomas grew up on the rural Eastern Shore of Virginia, but the family business of raising harness racing horses often brought him through Dover.

Decades later, Thomas returned to the Capital City, only this time he wasn’t just passing through. Almost 13 years ago, Thomas was hired as the superintendent of Capital School District, a tenure that recently culminated in him being named Superintendent of the Year by the Delaware Chief School Officer’s Association, which includes 19 superintendents.

The honor typically is awarded to the outgoing president of the association, a position Thomas held from July 2012 to June 2013.

“Mike Thomas is a conscientious, dedicated educator who provided valuable leadership during his tenure as president of the chiefs association,” said Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick, who became the new president of the association. “He did an outstanding job of balancing not only local issues but also statewide issues that affected all districts and all students. We were fortunate to have his leadership.”

Thomas began his career in education in 1973 as a teacher in Accomack County Public Schools on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He taught science at both the middle and high school level, before becoming a high school associate principal, a middle and high school principal and then associate superintendent for the school district. After five years as the superintendent of the Somerset County Public Schools in Maryland, Thomas took the job as the superintendent of the Capital School District.

“Being a superintendent is a 24/7 job,” he said. “I think you have to love children, you have to have a commitment to do everything you can to have your school system provide children the best services you can. We’re educating our future when we educate our children.”

Thomas said the Capital School District was not in very good financial shape when he arrived, getting it back on solid ground is one of the accomplishment of which he is most proud.

He said he also is proud to have carried on the legacy of offering quality programs for which Capital was known.

“Certainly, the most noticeable item is the development of a long-range facilities master plan that we began back in 2005,” he said. “The cornerstone of that master plan was the building of the new Dover High School, but we’ve upgraded all of our buildings … To get those things built, you have to go to referendum, and to go to referendum, you have to connect with your community and have them believe you’re on good course. We’re very proud we were able to pass three straight referendums.”

Thomas said he hopes Capital can continue to pursue the plans outlined in its master facilities plan. The district also will also continue to constantly evaluate programs to best serve the needs of the students, as well as staff, he said.

“It’s all about engaging with people,” he said. “You certainly want to support all of the efforts of our teachers [and] our administrators. They do a lot of hard work for our students. You also want to build a really good focus and mission for the district, something the district really believes in and what we want to accomplish for our children and their education.”

As superintendent of the year, Thomas will attend the National Conference on Education in San Diego this winter, where he will be honored along with the other state’s superintendents of the year. Thomas also will have an opportunity to apply for National Superintendent of the Year.