Emotions ran high at the start of the Bay St Louis City Council meeting Tuesday evening when parents, former students and community members advocated against removing Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees member Joan Thomas from the board.
Thomas was appointed to the board two years ago to fulfill the unexpired term of long-time board member Clevand Williams. Her appointment is up in March and Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre must either appoint her or a replacement.
Thomas, who has 40 years of experience as an educator, also happens to be the last African-American to hold a seat on the board.
In Thomas’s 40 years as an educator, she worked hands-on with students in the classroom and served as Social Studies Department Chair at Our Lady Academy and as a teacher at Bay High School. Thomas is also a member of St. Rose Church and the director of Religious Education, a Eucharist Minister and a member of the traditional choir.
Of the many supporters who came to Tuesday’s meeting to speak out in support of Thomas, Hancock County NAACP’s Andrea Dedeaux spoke on behalf of the chapter as to why Thomas should be reappointed.
“With Mrs. Thomas’s background in education,” Dedeaux said, “her present service on the school board, and her willingness to continue to serve, we must ask the question: Why remove Mrs. Thomas from her position as a school board member? We feel that there is no reason not to take advantage of the availability of someone who has proven to be such an asset. To not do so is definitely not a good example of the informed, intelligent, and effective governance we expect of our local elected officials.”
Dedeaux was not the only one to call Thomas “a valuable resource to our community.”
A former student of Thomas’s and retired veteran stood at the podium in front of city leaders with his cane and gave yet another emotional speech, saying he was a direct result of her teachings. Bruce Northridge, chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Executive Committee, also spoke, outlining the many reasons he and others felt Thomas should be reappointed.
Favre said he expects to announce his recommendation for his appointment at the next city council meeting. He said he will take in consideration what those who spoke in support of Thomas said.