NAACP wants urgent action from schools
The NAACP made a specific demand at their work session with the school board Monday night, as well as urgent requests for action on several matters.
Gary Davis, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, announced this group's requirement: that the person at Central Office who was responsible for the mistreatment of African-American job applicants get a written reprimand placed in their file. Davis further demanded that this be done within 30 days, and that the NAACP be sent a copy of the reprimand.
His closing recommendation was to "put a minority in the front office."
The depth of the African-American community's feeling for Dr. Patsey Thomas was revealed by a prolonged discussion of the way she has been transferred from principal at Marshall Elementary School, to the same job at Oak Grove, to the director of coordinated school health, all since Stan Curtis has been director of schools (17 months).
"Our passion about Dr. Thomas is a big deal," said the NAACP's Rochelle Alexander. "We want to know she's taken care of. We have concerns her job is going to end and she'll be back in the classroom at the end of the year."
"Why was she moved?" asked an audience member. "What do we tell the children who loved her?"
"I thought it would be a good fit," answered Curtis.
"Did she have an option to choose?" inquired another audience member.
"No, sir," Curtis replied.
"My placement is determined by you (Curtis) whether the state funds it or not," Thomas pointed out. "It's your decision what you will do with me; that's what the community wants to know."
"I'm not going to make that commitment," said Curtis. "I'm not going to commit to re-hiring anybody for 2010-2011 - that's the authority of the director."
"It's a slap in the face to say she's not guaranteed," exclaimed Alexander.
"My wife enjoys her job at Central Office," said Dr. Larry Thomas, who was in the audience, along with many other prominent members of Marshall County's African-American community. "No one understands how she got there. She used her PhD in administration as a principal for 14 years. Get ready to answer some questions because you're going to answer to somebody."
Curtis assured the group that if state funding for the coordinated school health position was cut he would "find a position" for Thomas.
"We will be monitoring her," Davis said. "If she gets less than a principal's job we will be coming to see you again."
Thomas was also part of another discussion initiated by Davis.
"Since we met, a highly-qualified African-American applied for the position of secretary-bookkeeper. Why were they not hired?" he asked.
"The applicants were interviewed by Thomas, Lyn Stacey, and Mitchell Byrd; the choice was the other person," answered Curtis.
"Ask Thomas," Byrd said. "I wasn't part of the final hiring."
"I made a recommendation," Thomas reluctantly said. "I was told I had to make another, and another, until Mr. Stacey felt good about it."
"Your first recommendation was not accepted?" asked Craig Michael, one of the six board members present.
"Second - not accepted?"
"Third - you made another?"
"I was running out of options," Thomas said.
"Speak out," urged chairwoman Ann Tears. "There should be no repercussions."
"I spoke the truth," said Thomas. "That's all I can say. It's unfortunate I'm being asked these questions. I hope I don't experience reprisals, but I would not be surprised."
"We have six board members here," said Tears. "We just want the right thing done."
"You've got my word you'll be here next year," exclaimed board member Curt Denton.
"The Chapel Hill Elementary assistant principal," said Davis. "Two African-Americans applied but were not hired. Who was on the committee and what guidelines did they use to make their selection?"
"Dean Delk (the principal) and Mitch Byrd put it together," Curtis answered. "Delk hired on the committee's recommendation. One qualification was to have five years of teaching experience."
"Why don't principals request more African-American teachers and administrators in their schools?" asked Davis.
"Good question,' replied Curtis. "Maybe that's something we need to do."
"Why don't you request more African-Americans in Chapel Hill and Cornersville? Davis insisted.
"That's a good question, too," Curtis said. "We need more applications from Hispanics and African-Americans. I hope we can get out and encourage more applicants."
"I brought the names of four African-American presidents of major universities within 60 miles of us," said Dr. Larry Thomas. "MTSU, Tennessee State, Alabama A & M, and Nashville Technical College. Maybe you can talk to these four men about how we can recruit better and find some qualified black people."
"What are your strategies to increase the number of African-Americans employed?" Davis asked Curtis.
"Dr. Thomas had a good idea," he replied. "Roy Dukes and I are going to visit some of the districts where they have been successful at recruiting African-Americans and ask about their methods. We do have diversity training scheduled."
"Very good," Davis said.