Tom truly understands and knows the culture and traditions at George Jenkins High School. With his expertise, knowledge, and exceptional leadership and people skills, he will continue to sustain the standard Jenkins has always known. With Tom as principal, Jenkins will continue to grow and flourish.
When the first bell of the 2018-19 school year rings on August 13, Tom Patton will walk into the principal’s office with only one thing standing between him and the top job – the word Acting. But he – and those who know him – hope that word will be gone before the end of the year.
Following in the footsteps of Buddy Thomas, who retired in May, Patton knows his biggest challenge is running the school without Thomas and Diane Werrick, its long-time head of student services.
“They were two pillars of our school for so long.” They ran the school well, Patton says, “and I want to keep it that way. I was part of their decisions. I want to keep up the Jenkins motto – keep pushing, strive for the best. We are a ‘B’ school, but we feel like we are an ‘A.’”
Werrick says she thinks Patton will push Jenkins further. “Tom truly understands and knows the culture and traditions at George Jenkins High School. With his expertise, knowledge, and exceptional leadership and people skills, he will continue to sustain the standard Jenkins has always known. With Tom as principal, Jenkins will continue to grow and flourish.”
His biggest fear? “I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to be a good leader,” especially for the senior class, Patton says. “They have expectations” of what this school year should be. “I want them to have a fantastic year. You only get one time. This is my time.”
His biggest concern? Safety and security are right up there. Last year, George Jenkins shared a school resource officer with five other schools, and even though the SRO was based at Jenkins, he would leave if another school called for him. This year, the SRO will be at Jenkins full time. “If he has to leave, say to take a student somewhere, either someone else will come here to fill in or someone will pick the student up. That’s best for us,” says Patton, a Warner University alumni who was recruited to Jenkins as its baseball coach in the 2000-2001 school year. He has also spent time at Lake Alfred Addair and Southwest Middle Schools.
At Jenkins, students and teachers are involved in safety, Patton says. “The culture of these kids is they don’t want bad things happening here. They speak to us. Teachers are invested in the kids. We are always trying to be out and about, to have good relationships with the students.”
Get to Know Tom Patton
Not only is Patton the newest principal of George Jenkins, but he is also a father of two – Kyle, 11, and Logan, 10. Kyle plays travel baseball, which Patton coaches. “It’s my coaching fix,” he says. Logan dances at Highlands School of Dance. Although Patton believes in public education and is proud of what the schools in Polk County are accomplishing, his children attend Resurrection Catholic Church & School. “It wasn’t the plan for the long term, but they enjoyed it so much,” and now they have too many friends there to leave.
Patton is also a huge baseball fan. “My grandfather grew up with (former Major League manager and player) Joe Torre – all his family is from New York,” he says. “I was the first generation born in Florida.” Because of that, he grew up a fan of the Atlanta Braves. “It was the closest team we could get to. And they were always on TV. My grandfather liked baseball, and he was a Mets fan, and he loved that WWOR carried Mets’ games.”
Patton also loves his mentors, who he speaks passionately about:
- David Lauer, a longtime School District administrator, who taught him about drive. “This is what we do.”
- John Wilson, principal at Southwest Middle, where Patton worked for four years, who taught him patience. “I was more of a ‘gotta get it done then fix it later’-type person. He was more about thinking it through a variety of different ways. I needed that back then.”
- Buddy Thomas, who instilled a humble nature in those around. “He was true to his word. He’s very loyal, to the kids, staff. He’s like an uncle to me. If I’m wrong I don’t have to worry about it because he won’t think any less of me. He showed me how to be emotional.”
And don’t forget the mentors outside of academics:
- The late John Rodda, Jenkins’ first booster club president
- Mike Curry of Dixie Southern Industrial, one of the school’s business partners
- John Santarpia of Magnify Credit Union, another business partner
“They are great mentors, friends, confidantes, good dudes,” he says.
When you meet Patton, you understand why he has so many people looking out for him. His quiet nature puts people at ease. He wants to know what he’s doing before diving in, which is why he hit the brakes when he was being fast-tracked a dozen years ago. His Catholic upbringing guides him, along with his mentors.
For all of those mentors, and others not mentioned, he says this: “The Lord has smiled down on me with the people he has put in my life.”