Thomas asking for unity

Friday, November 19, 2010

One of eight people who've filed EEOC complaints against Marshall County's Board of Education explained Thursday that she wants people to just get along with each other and work to improve the county's education system.

"I wish the slander and harassment would stop," said Dr. Patsey Thomas. "I wish all of us would work together amicably." She went on to say that she wants School Board members to be more professional and more supportive of schools director Roy Dukes and his staff at Central Office.

"Negativism really shouldn't have a place in board meetings," Thomas said. "I just want to work in a heal-thy, professional environment -- that's what I'm hoping for."

The complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportu-nity Commission charges the school board with discrimination based on race, color, and retaliation. It specifically mentions board member Barbara Kennedy and says, "she has told me that she didn't want two blacks as supervisors in Central Office."

Kennedy's response points to a recording of the school board's May 17 meeting during which Kennedy is heard saying, "I can't put two African-Americans, two Caucasians, two men or two women in those positions," and attributing the statement to Dukes, though he immediately denies it and asserts he merely called for diversity.

Thomas stands behind her complaint, stating, "Yes, the remark was made. There was no misunderstanding: she made the comment to all of us; I was there, so she made it to me."

After living in Marshall County for nearly 30 years, Thomas says, "I have given to this community and the community has embraced me." A deaconess and Sunday School teacher at Greater First Baptist Church, she has worked for the Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Teams, as well as tutoring children after school. Thomas has taught at all levels - elementary, middle, high school, and college - but says the years as principal of Marshall Elementary School were "one of the highlights of my life."

"Parents, students, faculty and staff always worked well with me," Thomas said. "I have tried to be an educational leader at all times, but it's difficult for supervisors and administrators to successfully work when there's a constant attack."

She's philosophical about the future, stating, "The personal attacks because of what I am will be on-going because I will never be able to change how God created me." Nevertheless, she refuses to be bullied, and states, "I will stand up and protect myself." Thomas has worked in, and enjoyed, every level of education, and relies on God to guide her career path: "I will go where He sends me."