While his students are enjoying their summer vacation, Hawthorne Elementary's new principal, Fred Tombaugh, spends his days thumbing through reports and data about his staff and students in preparation for the new school year.

While his students are enjoying their summer vacation, Hawthorne Elementary's new principal, Fred Tombaugh, spends his days thumbing through reports and data about his staff and students in preparation for the new school year.

"I'm trying to gather as much information as I can about the building from various sources and people just so I can build my background knowledge," he said. "I have had lots of conversations with (former principal) Machelle Kline and I'm really looking to build on what she has started, because she has started something special here ... evidenced by the way the teachers, the parents and the Minerva Park community embraces this school."

Tombaugh and his family, wife Tonia and daughters Kaitlyn, a third-grader at Annehurst Elementary, and Emma, a kindergartner at Annehurst, have lived in Westerville since moving from North Carolina in 2001. His father is former Westerville schools superintendent George Tombaugh.

His dad, Fred Tombaugh said, really had no influence in his decision to go into education.

His father stressed the importance of getting an education, Tombaugh said, and expected his children to continue with their education through graduate school but left career decisions up to them. He is the only one of his four siblings to go into education.

"It is just what I wanted to do," he said. "To help people, help students become better students. To help teachers become better teachers. And to help parents become better parents. That calling of serving others is what it is all about."

He began his career in a third-grade classroom in a school district just outside of Raleigh, N.C., where he was also an instructional resource teacher. In 2001, he went into the principal training program in Columbus City Schools. He was principal at Columbus' Forest Park Elementary for five years and at Woodcrest Elementary for one.

While he enjoyed the classroom, Tombaugh said his real "calling" was on the administrative end.

He believes in taking a team approach to education, letting teachers and other staff members have a say in how to support the programs they help create. His door is open to everybody, he said.

In order to recognize the members of his team as they arrive to set up their classrooms, his wife and daughters created flash cards with a picture on one side and the staff member's name and grade level on the back. Tombaugh works through them in his spare time.

He also found a copy of last year's yearbook, but with around 600 students at Hawthorne, "right now I'm working on staff and then I will move on to the students," Tombaugh said.

He also plans to meet with PTO leaders soon and said he is looks forward to meeting parents and students during Back-to-School Days Aug. 19-21.

"I'm thrilled to be here and can't wait for school to start," Tombaugh said. "Working in one area and living in another, there was a little bit of a disconnect. I really want to be part of the community where I live and do more in this community."

Tombaugh said when Westerville Superintendent Dan Good told him Hawthorne would be a "good fit" for him, "My first reaction was, where do I sign? I did some background research of each (Westerville) elementary school and as soon as he said that, I knew this is where I want to be."