A native of Oklahoma, Jim Thomas began the California part of his education career as a teacher at Manteca's Lincoln School in 1959. Four years later, he became the school's principal.
In 1972, the Board of Education asked him to serve as an Assistant Superintendent, though he had not applied for the job. While Assistant Superintendent, he negotiated contracts which provided for some of the highest teachers' salaries in the area, while keeping the district in sound financial health. Mr. Thomas served in that position until 1983, when he was appointed District Superintendent. He retired in 1986.
As Superintendent, and later as a district consultant, Jim Thomas was the key individual responsible for the successful school construction program in Manteca. This was accomplished at a minimal cost to local taxpayers due to his persistent pursuit of state construction funds. His work obtained funding for the building of five elementary schools, one high school, a high school library, and major modernization projects at four other schools.
The leadership, knowledge, energy, and dedication that Mr. Thomas provided to the Manteca Unified School District during the more than 30 years that he was associated with the district have been important factors in developing the reputation for educational excellence and fiscal responsibility that the district has enjoyed over the years.