WILKES-BARRE — The day Wilkes-Barre NAACP vice president Andita Parker-Lloyd issued a statement calling for Ned Evans to resign from the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board, she predicted a similar call would soon be made for board member Denise Thomas.
That prediction was fulfilled late Thursday with another statement.
“The inappropriate emails made by Denise Thomas while she was a school district employee leave us with no choice but to ask for her resignation from the school board,” the statement read. “She has shown a lack of cultural competence that is unacceptable for our diverse student body.”
A person going by the name of Paul Smith posted several emails from Thomas on the Facebook page for Save Our Schools, an organization formed to oppose the consolidation of two high schools, a move Thomas has steadfastly supported since the board voted for it in 2015. The emails were deemed by critics to clearly mock minority and special education students.
A source confirmed some, and likely all, of the emails were authentic, and Thomas did not deny they could be. She told the Times Leader she doesn’t “have a filter,” but she did not believe she had written some of the things in the emails. She also said she would have been disciplined or had email access restricted if she had written them.
The statement from the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contends Thomas “can say that she doesn’t have a filter but some of the comments in the emails we have viewed attack people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged. Despite the timing of these emails, since fear of retaliation is often why these things stay hidden, we need strong culturally competent board members to govern our district.”
Thomas worked part-time as an attendance officer for the school district at the time of the emails, dated 2010 and 2011. She resigned her position when she won a seat on the board in 2013. She won a second term last November. She is also the guardian of two biracial children.
Parker-Lloyd has taught in the district for years, and has periodically spoken at board meetings, though usually stressing it was as a private citizen. She was on a committee comprised of district administrators and staff formed to offer recommendations on what to do with three aging high schools, and spoke out in favor of consolidation when it was first approved. But she has also questioned the lack of plans for students at GAR High School, which is not part of the consolidation plan, and which has the highest percentage of minority students among the three schools.
The statement also notes the executive committee of the local NAACP “has asked for the district to complete a climate study annually to help work on creating a healthier environment for all of our students and faculty. The climate study done by an outside body would help the district and the NAACP both work together toward their missions and visions.”
The statement on both Evans and Thomas noted the NAACP has focused on six strategic issues, and that education is one of them. It also welcomes people to “use our NAACP complaint process to let us know what discriminatory issues that they are facing in our community. We cannot act on each complaint without legal merit but we can create a file for people or organizations that have repeatedly had issues.”
Evans has been facing mounting calls for his resignation since the discovery of a comment he made on a Facebook post about a 27-year-old teacher in Arizona accused of having oral sex with a 13-year-old male student. Superintendent Brian Costello released a statement July 10, the day after the news broke, saying he and the other board members were asking for his resignation. On July 12, board member Melissa Patla issued her own statement vowing to ask for his resignation.
Earlier this week, the NAACP issued a statement calling for him to resign, and when asked if they were looking into the issue of Thomas’ emails, Parker-Lloyd said they were investigating it and that she expected a call for her resignation soon.
Evans has apologized for his post and said it was a “stupid mistake.” But he has adamantly refused to resign.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish