Melissa Thompson

Ph.D. | Education

Dr. Melissa Thompson launched her formal career in education in 1998, as a High School teacher in Hortonville, WI. After twenty-five years in primary and secondary education, and more than a decade as a Superintendent, Dr. Thompson transitioned to the PRA Education Studio in 2023 as the firm’s Director of Education Strategy.

Melissa comes from a family of educators, from preschool teachers to college professors. The family’s commitment to providing education inspired her to make her own impact in the field. Dr. Melissa Thompson has held various positions from classroom teacher to varsity coach, from Athletic Director to Principal, and eventually to Superintendent, culminating in academic awards and other recognitions for the Swallow School District in Hartland, WI. Notable achievements include being the top scoring district on state report cards (2020-2021), receiving the top score for eighth-grade mathematics achievement (2018-2019), and being one of eight schools statewide to earn recognition as both a High Progress and High Achieving Title I School. The district was also named a National Blue Ribbon School in the Closing the Gaps Category (2016) by the United States Department of Education.

Following a successful experience with Long-Range Planning and a referendum at the Swallow School District, Dr. Thompson sought new ways to share her knowledge to help districts maximize educational outcomes and improve the student experience during the important formative years of K-12 education and joined PRA.

Dr. Melissa Thompson has shared her time and talent as a facilitator of strategic planning efforts for districts and organizations, mentored aspiring administrators and superintendents, acted as a search consultant for districts in transition seeking a superintendent, and shared her wisdom through presentations at a myriad of conferences. She has made a lasting impact on Wisconsin education and school planning.

Within the PRA Education Studio, Melissa acts as an “advocate for a better tomorrow” for all of our partner districts. Her goal is broader than pure architecture – it is to inspire clients and transform schools through strategic education planning, community engagement, and district communication, helping to strengthen communities through a focus on and investment in our nation’s youth.

Melissa also contributes to her community as an active member and former president of the Hartland-Lake Country Rotary. Her travels across Europe have fueled her passion for architecture and design. When she’s at home she cherishes time with her children, enjoys family travel, and practices creative design through landscaping and other home improvement projects.

American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB)
Wisconsin Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (Wisconsin ASCD)
Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA)
Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA)
EDmarket Architect & Designer Council (Edmarket Leadership)

Bachelor of Science, Psychology, Lawrence University
Masters in Educational Administration – University of Wisconsin – Madison
Ph.D in Educational Leadership – University of Wisconsin – Madison

Table Coach, WASBO Investing in Wisconsin Public Schools Simulation
Planning for Effective Public Participation, International Association for Public Participation
Communication for Effective Public Participation, International Association for Public Participation
Techniques for Effective Public Participation, International Association for Public Participation

Awards for District Communication:
Award of Excellence, Website-Construction Project Progress, 2021
Award of Excellence, Social Media Campaign, 2021
Award of Excellence, In-Home Mailer-Best in Class, 2019
Award of Excellence, Referendum Campaign, 2019
Award of Excellence, In-Home Mailer, 2018
Award of Merit, School Newsletter, 2018
Award of Excellence, Website Redesign, 2017

Awards for District Leadership:
NICHE A+ District, 2022, 2023
NICHE Elementary and Middle School Teachers 2nd in Wisconsin, 2022
NICHE A+ for Academics, 2022, 2023
NICHE Elementary School 3rd in Wisconsin, 2022
PLTW School and District of Distinction, 2017-2022
US News and World Report Best Elementary Schools (#26/1030) in Wisconsin, 2022
US News and World Report (#5/562) in Wisconsin, 2022
DPI Top Performing School District in Wisconsin, 2021
Wisconsin School Health Award, Bronze, 2019
National Blue Ribbon Award-Closing the Gaps Category, 2016
Wisconsin Title I Schools Award as High Achieving High Progress School, 2015