Position: Athletic/Activities Director School: Johnsburg High School
School District: Johnsburg School District 12
City, State: Johnsburg, Illinois
About the Nominee: Tom Ross was nominated by his principal, Kevin Shelton.
“525,600 minutes. 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?” Rent, The Musical.
How do you measure the impact of one person on a school community? Have you ever worked with someone that everyone respects and speaks positively about? Principal Shelton has had this experience in working with Tom Ross, Johnsburg High School athletic director. When it comes to “measuring” the impact Mr. Ross has had on the JHS community, it’s hard to find “numerical data” to back up this claim. With that said, Mr. Ross has a legacy of always going above and beyond to ensure that his students have the best experience possible.
Due to the size of Johnsburg High, Mr. Ross is forced to wear many hats. He is always willing to step out from behind his desk to get his hands dirty and assist the maintenance crew with making sure that fields and courts are ready. He also takes pride in getting to know his athletes and supporting the teams/individuals in their athletic experience. Mr. Ross is extremely visible, making it a point to attend a match in EVERY sport each season. Principal Shelton has seen the respect that student-athletes and coaches have for Mr. Ross; they recognize the effort he makes to be present at their events. He will make sure he is there to cheer on the golf team as they tee off at a match, then drive to a different location to cheer on the cross-country team as they start or finish a race. Mr. Ross will step in to announce soccer games, then run inside to line up after a volleyball match so he can high five every player on the team. In one 48 hour period, Tom drove 3.5 hours in order to watch the dance team perform at the state competition, then drove back to JHS to set up for evening games only to make the 3.5 hour drive back to states the next morning to cheer on the dance team when they made the finals.
These are only a few examples of his positive presence at JHS. Mr. Ross also commands respect among other athletic directors; they allow him to present trophies and medals at their tournaments if JHS teams win. Why would they do this at their own tournaments? It’s because Mr. Ross’s character is exceptional, and he is always in attendance to make these moments possible. He is also very fair in how each sport is recognized in our school. Not only do all sports get recognized at pep rallies, but he also includes non-athletic clubs and activities at these events. Each sport and non-athletic club feels respected and appreciated by him, and it shows in how they respond to his classy approach.
It is rare to make 100% of your coaches happy all the time, but Mr. Ross comes close. Johnsburg’s coaches don’t always agree with Mr. Ross, but he always communicates to each coach how they are valued and important to him and the athletic department, as well as to the community as a whole. He created an advisory committee to give coaches input into various aspects of their sport and the overall athletic department. These conversations have produced various plans for improvement, like the creation of the Johnsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016-17. Coaches, community members and even former JHS athletic directors have been a part of crafting the constitution and bylaws of this new endeavor. The unity of Johnsburg’s coaches under Mr. Ross’s leadership continues to forge into new and exciting territory; recently, the coaches united for the first time to offer speed and agility training for all students. This “all-encompassing” approach is a reflection of Mr. Ross’s philosophy that every sport and every athlete matters and is important.
His reputation with community members, parents, administration and Board of Education members is stellar. There are people who still disagree with decisions he makes, but Principal Shelton has yet to come across someone who met with Mr. Ross regarding an issue and didn’t walk away without feeling valued. Mr. Ross makes sure that others’ concerns are heard and follows up in an appropriate manner in an effort to make the situation better. His attention to detail, professionalism and commitment to building relationships are an example for the entire district
The best “measure” of Mr. Ross’s impact at JHS has come in the multitude of positive moments where his efforts have made someone’s life easier, more positive, more meaningful or more productive. Every single coach, parent, athlete, administrator and Board of Education member in attendance at Johnsburg High’s annual athletic awards night thanked Tom for his efforts with a thunderous standing ovation. This is the type of “data” that makes Mr. Ross special, and why those in Skyhawk Nation recognize that he has been a LifeChanger for the entire school community.