The Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association (ESSAA) recognized Jim Kassebaum, Principal of Harry B. Thompson Middle School in the Syosset CSD, as the 2018 CAS Region 1 ESSAA Administrator of the Year at their Executive Board Meeting on June 1st at the Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson in Tarrytown, New York.
Jim was nominated by his colleagues in Syosset and selected by the awards committee for his steadfast leadership, support, mentorship, and lifetime of outstanding professional achievement. After stops in Ardsley and Bayport-Blue Point, his home district, he has spent the last twenty-four years in Syosset with the last sixteen as principal of Harry B. Thompson Middle School, one of the highest achieving middle schools in NYS.
Always a true believer in middle school philosophy, his leadership decisions have reflected those teaching and learning beliefs. During his tenure at Thompson, teaming expanded to all grades and subject areas and character education programs were implemented to tackle the social and emotional needs of students in this new age of technology. He has always understood that adolescence is a challenging time for students and has fought passionately to ensure that the school maintained a balance between academic and social and emotional learning. Jim was a former guidance counselor, and his belief that middle schools should take care of the whole child has never left him.
Jim has led his staff through NCLB, Common Core and now ESSA with common sense. While he believes in data, he knows that no student or teacher could be wholly quantified and has always encouraged his staff to dig deeper and expect more than just strong test results. He has focused on making learning fun, building relationships, emphasizing solid small group instruction with differentiation and student engagement. He visits classrooms daily and regularly confers with his staff to ensure that they keep their standards high. He has sought to instill in his team the belief that all can continue to grow throughout their career and has modeled that approach himself by leading the building in its 1:1 Chromebook initiative.
Another important part of Jim’s career has been skillfully serving the Syosset Principals’ as their President and successfully leading them through multiple contract negotiations and other important initiatives such as the implementation of the Common Core Standards, the district APPR Plan, and now ESSA. Through it all, Jim has earned a well-deserved reputation of supporting colleagues in need and working in partnership with the district to ensure that principals are supported fairly and have the resources needed to be successful.
In addition to his work with the Syosset Principals Association, Jim has also capably served on the CAS Executive Board for several years as treasurer and has been an active member and president of the Nassau County Middle School Principals’ Association.
In the words of his colleague, Dr. John Durante, principal of Syosset High School “No one is more deserving of the ESSAA Administrator of the Year Award than Jim Kassebaum.” All who work with Jim know that his legacy at Harry B. Thompson Middle School, as a caring, dedicated and passionate principal will continue to resonate for years to come.
Recently, Jim announced that he would be retiring after the school year ends when he will have the opportunity to spend more time with his family traveling and exploring his many hobbies. All of us in CAS congratulate Jim on this award and wish him continued success and happiness in the next phase of a long and rewarding life!