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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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PNJ editorial misses the point

The PNJ scolds Rev. May and his church today. Once again the daily newspaper fails to understand the political moves being played. During the city charter debate, the PNJ let itself be played by No Boss Mayor on the early release of a campaign finance report that hid the PAC’s biggest contributor. Now its Superintendent of School Malcolm Thomas who is playing them.

Thomas hasn’t negotiated with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in good faith. He went to media on Wednesday announcing that he was accepting a deal that he knew had been withdrawn. Why was it withdrawn? Because community members – white and black- told Rev. May that the School District should be a more collaborative partner in this deal – as it was with ARC Gateway.

Rev. May formally withdrew his offer yesterday when it become clear that there were no real negotiations to be had with Thomas. The bright spot is that it appears that a Charter School – owned by an out-of-town company – will be able to lease Brownsville Middle School for a $1 a year and that community will have positive activity on the property.

Here is Rev. May’s formal letter to Superintendent Thomas – Letter

What gets me in the letter is Thomas knew that Rev. May’s congregation was so committed to the project that they were pledging funds from their 401k plans. Maybe Rev. May was reaching. Maybe his church was putting too much faith in God. But how can any leader not be touched by such a commitment coming from the African-American community or any group? A commitment that had them doing what few others are willing to do – invest in Brownsville. Life is more than ledger sheets and statistics, but Thomas wasn’t moved.

Thomas refused to put the Brownsville Middle School on the agenda so Rev. May and his congregation were left with only being allowed to speak at the public forum. Thomas rejected the offer and the board asked him to please talk and negotiate with the church.

Instead of face-to-face negotiations, what we got from Superintendent Thomas was a rushed grandstand political move. It’s a shame the PNJ failed to see it for what it was.