Beyond the Boardroom: Fisher Superintendent Barb Thompson | Business | – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette


BTB barb thompson

Fisher Superintendent Barb Thompson at her office at the grade school in Fisher on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

As tumultuous as the past 10 months, two weeks and two days have been for anyone in the education business, it hasn’t been all Ds and Fs.

Take it from Fisher Superintendent BARB THOMPSON, whose all-time single favorite moment on the job came at the very end of last school year, just before a bummer of a summer.

“Oddly enough, last year’s graduation,” she says. “It was a rainy and cold outdoor parade/ceremony, but celebrating last year’s seniors and seeing their smiling faces was a definite highlight. When I see pictures of the smiling faces from that day, it makes all the struggle worth it.”

Thompson is among the area’s longest-serving school administrators, spending the past 16 years leading the Champaign County district of about 600.

The pride of the tiny unincorporated Douglas County town of Bourbon and Arthur High, Thompson took time out to answer a few questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 63rd installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … make sure our students know you are their biggest fans.

My business role model is … Walt Disney. His ability to mesh imagination with solid business sense and create a product that embraces growth, risk taking and creativity is inspirational.

My philosophy on meetings is … they do not need to be lengthy to be productive.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … the stress that you carry 24/7.

I can’t live without my … books/e-reader.

I’m frugal in that … I search online to find the best prices for whatever it is I’m buying.

The biggest business risk I ever took was … applying for the superintendent’s position at Fisher, and it’s by far the best decision I have ever made. Serving alongside dedicated educators, board members, students and families in this community continues to be a blessing.

The last luxury in which I indulged was … a new toaster!

When it comes to picking the most beneficial college class I took in college … this is a tough one, because I had some amazing professors.

Dr. McGreal at the University of Illinois — Go Illini — was great and made me look at staff evaluation in a different light.

I also took a finance class at EIU, and Dr. Rich Berg somehow managed to explain school finance to me.

I’m up and at ’em every day by … at least 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and a little later on weekends.

My exercise routine … is lacking. I need to step it up a lot, because I am hiking in June with a group of Fisher High School students in the southwest.

We were supposed to go last June, but the pandemic changed those plans.

The worst job I ever had was … walking beans for my dad when I was 13-14. Those were long, hot hours in those bean fields.

On a 1-to-10 scale, the impact of the pandemic has been a … 10. Educators have essentially had to rethink every aspect of how school looks for our students; however, I am immensely proud of our students, staff and community for their patience and cooperation in making the best of these strange and challenging times.

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