By Joel Phelps & Joe May
The Arkadelphian and The Southern Standard
For the first time in generations, an Arkadelphia graduate will take the helm of the local school district.
After a stint as superintendent at the Gurdon Public School District, a longtime Arkadelphia teacher and principal is returning to take the reigns as the leader of Arkadelphia Public Schools, the institution she graduated from in 1990.
Following an executive session during a special-called meeting Tuesday evening, the Arkadelphia Board of Education voted unanimously to name Nikki Thomas as superintendent. In a pool of 23 candidates, Thomas was one of four the school board interviewed for the position. She begins her new role on July 1.
While she had applied for the position following the departure of former Superintendent Donnie Whitten, Thomas did not apply this year, but rather was asked by the board to come in for an interview.
“I think [hiring Thomas] proves the unity of this board in representing our community that it was a unanimous decision,” school board member Blake Bell told The Arkadelphian following the meeting.
School board president Casey Motl said he is “thrilled” to have Thomas return to Arkadelphia Public Schools. “She built most of her career here, and we’re all too happy to bring her back on board and help lead us forward.”
School board member Kenneth Harris Jr. added: “She worked at every level. She knows the system from kindergarten through 12th grade. She should be a great superintendent. She knows curriculum and she knows instruction.”
In texts with The Southern Standard following her hiring Tuesday evening, Thomas stated that she had served as principal at every school in the district except the now-shuttered Central Primary. Her first position with the district was as a teacher at Goza Middle School from 1998-2007. She briefly left the district to serve as curriculum coordinator at Bismarck from 2007-08 and returned as principal at Peake Elementary from 2008-17. She also served as interim principal at Perritt Primary for a few months in 2012.
In 2017, Thomas served a year as assistant principal at AHS and, in 2018, returned to Goza for a year before she was principal at Arkadelphia High School from 2019-20. She was then hired as superintendent in Gurdon, a position she has held for the past two years.
Asked how it felt to return at the helm of her alma mater, Thomas stated, “I’m very excited and humbled. I’m truly blessed to get this opportunity to serve my home community.”
The terms of her contract with the school district are pending.
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