Malcolm Thomas: Question of Respect

Yesterday the Escambia County Public School District redrafted and redrafted an amendment to its contract with the A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence. At no time did the district consult with charter school officials or its attorneys. There were no negotiations between the parties. The superintendent made his decision about what he would offer and then the board passed it 5-0—-with no input from the school.

In good faith negotiations, the attorneys from both parties meet and work out the language before it goes to a board. Thomas wouldn’t treat a white company or church this way. Had Thomas been sincere about helping Dixon, the discussion of this amendment would have begun weeks ago when the test scores showed how much the Dixon students had improved. The amendment only happened because Rev. Lutimothy May had asked for an extension last week.

What Thomas got was a favorable headline from the daily newspaper. Dixon got a hallow victory.

Frederick Douglass in his biography reflected on what he had heard his slave master, Mr. Auld, tell his wife after catching her teaching Douglass how to read: “If you teach that nigger how to read, there will be no keeping him,” Auld said. “It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.”

Thomas is practicing plantation politics. In his world, Rev. May and other black leaders must be managed, not treated with the respect of equals.

Dixon had its students make tremendous gains last year–despite all the hurdles the district threw at them. That frightens the superintendent. That little school with meager resources outperformed his prized schools when it came to such gains. How could a black principal and a group of black teachers accomplish this? This really shakes Thomas’ view of education.

Instead of finding ways to punish Rev. May, with whom Thomas is still upset about Brownsville Middle, and belittle A.A. Dixon teachers and student, Malcolm Thomas should be figuring out ways to help them have even bigger gains next school year.

Sadly, Master Thomas won’t let that happen–all the while pretending for the media that he cares. Meanwhile the black ministers, NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Southern Poverty Law Center are watching. I have been told that the Levin Papantonio law firm has requested video and audio tapes of yesterday’s meeting.

The superintendent may be surprised that not all whites accept his view of the African-American community.