NAACP secretary reacts to Abernathy's decision

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From staff reports

The secretary of the Marshall County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People objects to reassignment of a black administrator in the school system to a teaching job.

Schools Director Jackie Abernathy's statements on "redistribution of minorities paint a pretty picture, but do not tell the real truth of what the director has done to the morale and integrity of minorities ... employed by the system," branch secretary Rochelle Alexander says.

Early this school year, Dr. Patsey Thomas was transferred from the central office, where she was coordinator of testing and attendance, to Lewisburg Middle School, where she teaches physical education.

"The Tennessee State Conference NAACP's response is, 'If you look at Dr. Thomas's credentials and total years of experience, Dr. Thomas is more qualified to serve in leadership positions than even the current director of schools and/or current administrators,'" Alexander says.

At the central office, there are 21 white employees and four black employees, she says. One is certified and three are non-certified. Of nearly 450 teachers in the system, there are 14 black teachers and three black administrators.

Abernathy has a central office staff with nearly half the percentage of black employees as last year, Alexander says.

Abernathy pointed to three employees with doctorate degrees in the school system, saying they're all in the classroom, Alexander continues. But two of the employees with doctorates, both white, were already in the classroom, while the black employee "was demoted into the classroom from an administrative position."

She says county NAACP President Gary Davis said Thomas is the most qualified employee in the system based on credentials including a bachelors, masters, doctorate of education, supervisor license, elementary and secondary certification, attendance certification, supervisor certification, professional administration licenses K-12, superintendent license, and professional license. Thomas has 26 years of experience, including service as assistant principal, principal, coordinator of school health and attendance and testing.

Alexander says Thomas applied for all open central office and administration positions and was not hired for any of them and that Abernathy can place Thomas in any of those jobs, but less qualified people got those jobs.

Alexander said that if Abernathy feels Thomas isn't qualified, Abernathy should provide reasons.

As for the association president's statement, "No Justice No Peace," Davis said the community is looking to the school board for answers. Alexander says local NAACP members are appalled Abernathy thought they approached her in a threatening manner.

Abernathy said she's attended every meeting to which she's been invited, but she has "refused to meet with a few taxpaying citizens who requested a meeting with her," according to Alexander. "We are a peaceful group. We are genuinely concerned with the treatment of minorities and the true implementation of diversity and equity in employment and the opportunities for upward mobility of employees throughout our school system."