Citizens Project Statement On the Termination of School District 11 Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Thomas

March 3, 2022

To Superintendent Thomas, Job Well Done!

Citizens Project unequivocally condemns Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education’s actions in forcing an abrupt end to Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Thomas’ tenure.  The Board’s President, Dr. Parth Melpakam, along with three newly elected Board Directors, have demonstrated a level of disingenuousness and shortsightedness near shameful proportions.  Thankfully, Dr. Thomas spared the District 11 community and Colorado Springs at large a potentially agonizing episode.   Of course, this is who he is: a professional and a gentleman of character, intellect, and grace.  His actions in managing a “mutual separation agreement” are emblematic of his love and dedication for ALL students and community, including those who have been pushed to the margins, are BIPOC, and/or LGBTQIA+.

According to the Board Minutes, the 2017-2021 District 11 Board voted unanimously (7-0) to hire Dr. Thomas with a start date of July 2018.   Concurrently, the Board issued guidance and directions for the development of a Strategic Plan, which included a re-dedication to Equity benchmarks with special attention to improving student academic performance and staff/faculty duty performance.  His collaborative leadership style was especially inclusive for all stakeholders, and his unwavering focus on equity—which he publicly defined as “giving every student and staff what they uniquely need to be successful”—proved to be effective.

When Dr. Thomas arrived, District 11 had been losing students for over 10 years; after his first year of service, he reduced projected losses by 49 percent.  In addition, within two years, he reduced the number of schools being monitored by the state for low academic performance from seven to two.

Unfortunately, over this same period, the attributes of equity in enhancing educational opportunities and healthy learning environments became defamatory and distorted.  Equity considerations and policies have become increasingly political and less clearly centered on the specific needs of students.  Surely, such an environment, along with an unsupportive majority Board led to Dr. Thomas’ concurrence with a “mutual separation agreement.”  This is a disheartening turn of events.

Citizens Project appreciates Dr. Thomas’ service.  Although his tenure may have been shorter than wished, his inspiring leadership and foundational accomplishments will provide an enduring legacy of perseverance and courage.

This episode also reminds of the importance of informed voting.  Elections reflect the sentiments of those whose votes are counted.  Through Voter Guides and other information, Citizens Project will continue to work to ensure citizens of this region have the information to make informed decisions and to vote accordingly.