Q and A with LPOSD Superintendent Tom Albertson

Now that Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent has settled into his new position, we asked about his plans. No stranger to our district or our community, we are excited about the possibility his leadership brings. 

PAFE: You were born and raised in Sandpoint and have more than 30 years’ experience with the school system here. We assume you’ve ‘heard it all,’ but what’s something that you were surprised to learn recently?

TA: Actually, I have had different roles within the school district for 32 years, 22 as a high school math teacher, and ten years in various administrative roles. My experience has predominately been at the secondary level. So I am excited more than surprised to learn about the remarkable gains the K-3 literacy program has made on reading proficiency at grade level (from 51 percent to 78 percent in one year). Our teachers are doing tremendous work. It not only amazes me but sometimes goes unnoticed from colleagues at the secondary level.

PAFE: Idaho doesn’t have the best reputation for its quality of education, but LPOSD certainly stands out. What would you like families that are new to the area to know about Sandpoint and the school district?

TA: The school district has a five-year strategic plan emphasizing five priorities:

  1. Ensure academic success for every student
  2. Engage our communities
  3. Recruit, train, and retain highly effective personnel
  4. Utilize resources effectively and be fiscally responsible
  5. Provide safe and innovative learning environments

The dedicated highly qualified staff makes the most significant difference in why our students perform well comparatively in the State of Idaho. Improved performance can only happen by way of partnering with the community and having common educational goals which provide unique opportunities for students to grow. These opportunities include an emphasis on Career Technical Education (CTE), STEM, arts and theater, and advanced opportunities to gain college credits while still in high school through AP and dual credit courses. Having the mindset of listening to student voice and providing opportunities when possible is a unique quality of LPOSD. Also, student success can’t happen until we develop a positive community of learners in each classroom based on trust.

PAFE: One of your objectives is for LPOSD to become more engaged with the community – what are some things you’d like to do (or see) to that end? 

TA: I would like to build on the communication that has already started in the district. Our students are doing great things every day, and I would like all citizens to be aware and celebrate in this success, not just parents. So, in addition to newsletters from each school in our district, I will send out updates on the district to all citizens. I will increase the district social media presence celebrating student success as well as informing the public of important district news. Most importantly, my preferred method of communicating is a face-to-face conversation, so I am always open to meeting with any member of our community.

PAFE: We understand you’re just getting started in your role as superintendent, but what is something you are looking forward to improving/changing? 

TA: I don’t want to simplify a student’s K-12 education, but I am looking forward to realizing three visions. 

That every student: 

  1. Can read at grade level by the end of third grade
  2. Is algebra-ready entering ninth grade, and 
  3. Has a viable post-secondary plan leaving high school. 
  4. Is in a learning environment that allows them to have a voice, take an active role in the community of learners, and gives them a sense of ownership of their education.

PAFE: Is there a specific incident or experience that drew you to a career in education?

TA: As many young people do, I changed my major in college multiple times. I always liked math and started to pursue a career as an engineer, followed by computer science, and finally landed on a degree in education with a major in mathematics. I like working with people, and for me, it was the right blend of things I was passionate about. My father was a teacher, so I was familiar with a career in education. I completed my student teaching in the Upward Bound program on the University of Idaho campus, and this sealed the deal as I learned a lot about relating to teenagers. The older I get, the more I value education and see the opportunities it provides.

PAFE: What was the last book you read and enjoyed? 

TA: Most of my reading is on leadership, motivational books, or self-improvement. I consider myself to be on a path of continuous improvement. The last book I read, recommended to me by my wife Cindy, was The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod. The basis of the book is about how miracles can happen with a combination of unwavering faith and extraordinary effort. I have always been a big fan of hard work and maximum effort, so this book helped me set and achieve goals.