Father shares moving experience with administrator 

Is it ironic that the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association just recently chose a man, Chad Thomas, as Principal of the Year despite the fact that being a school administrator is not his highest priority? Or is it entirely fitting? In a world where public education has often gone terribly wrong, emphasizing rules, regulations and test scores over common sense, isn’t it refreshing to see someone rewarded for putting people and their character development ahead of the system?

I have always admired Mr. Thomas for his remarkable common sense and his nature to expect the best from those around him according to his own standards. Long before he was my son’s principal at Bailey Middle School, he was a client of mine when I was a classroom technology supplier to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Mr. Thomas had a reputation within our company as a client who expected nothing less than the very best we could provide his students and teachers. He was demanding but equally fair. I loved working with him because in addition to having high expectations, he was sincerely grateful and always willing to express his thankfulness when we did our job well. Can you think of any better character example in an educator?

I had tremendous fears about my son beginning middle school two years ago. I was haunted by the memories of my days in junior high, as we called it then, and worried how my sensitive and intelligent child would fit into the mosh-pit of pre-adolescence called Middle School. But then I became hopeful when I learned Mr. Thomas had moved from his elementary school to Bailey Middle. I somehow knew this was meant for my son. Sure enough, when I met Mr. Thomas again at sixth-grade orientation, I was assured that my son was in good hands.

My wife and I were both educators for most of our careers. We believe in participating in and supporting public education as it is truly the foundation for the future of our society. Fleeing public education is not the answer, digging in and making it better is the only option.

Sadly, I’ve been able to do little of that this year because my 47-year-old wife, CMS curriculum facilitator, and mother of my boys passed away this spring after battling colon cancer for five years. 

All my time and efforts since then have gone into sustaining our home and ensuring the welfare of our boys. It’s been challenging but one concern was put to rest very soon after my wife’s passing.

I received a note from Mr. Thomas explaining that he had been following my wife’s battle with cancer and had been preparing for our loss. In no uncertain terms, he explained that grades and school work would not be his priority for my seventh-grade son this year. In an email, he told me that my son’s emotional well-being, confidence and sense of security were his top priority.

Mr. Thomas and his amazing team at Bailey organized a group meeting with all of his teachers and the 7th grade counselor to brainstorm how this could be accomplished. Mr. Thomas knew my son, as an academic like his mom, would still be focused on grades and performance, so we all strategized how to keep him on track and organized so his grades wouldn’t suffer. When the going got rough, this team, as promised, stepped up and stepped in to lead my son to the completion of a year that was successful by any standard. My son scored all fives on every area of EOG testing, including ninth-grade algebra taken in seventh grade.

Mr. Thomas and his team accomplished this not by putting grades or policies first. My son obviously missed a significant number of days surrounding his mom’s passing and was not always capable of being a model student.

Although our story and our encounters with Mr. Thomas are unique, I know they’re not isolated. I’ve heard similar stories from other parents, students and teachers. Mr. Thomas consistently demonstrates that with the proper priorities, dedication and perseverance success is assured.

In a world seeming to lose its priorities, I feel so blessed to have Mr. Thomas as my son’s principal and leader of the young men and women who will be in charge of our future.

 

Greer Dickerson, of Huntersville, is the father of a rising eighth-grader at Bailey Middle School.