Former Colorado Springs, Co, District 11 Superintendent
A True Team Player: An Interview with Dr. Michael J. Thomas
Article By Tina Adams, August 2020 Dr. Thomas is the Superintendent of the District 11 schools here in Colorado Springs, where he holds it an honor and a privilege to give back to the community. He strives to not only be a quality leader, but to lead by example, reflecting the achievability of this community. Michael speaks about the heart of what he does in this interview.
What would you say is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of why you do what you do as Superintendent and how you do your job?
I’m that player-coach. Some may think that’s not a good combination I know, but I grew up in a community and went through school systems that really weren’t designed for me at all. I remember being pulled out of my urban community and moved to the suburbs, which was only like 15 minutes away, but back then, that felt like a country mile. And here I am, a little speck; I would say that my brother and I doubled the diversity at our elementary school upon our enrollment. And that’s when I realized the structural inequalities, that I lived and faced as a young black kid growing up in an all-white K-12 system, that clearly didn’t see me. Had it not been for the saving grace of my church, and me being able to go back and visit, I would have lost it. So fast-forward to where I am today, I see that my lived experiences through K-12 education, taught me a lot and if nothing else it taught me that no matter what as adult in this system you need to be perceived as a leader by every young person. I don’t care if you are a building and grounds keeper, cafeteria worker, a classroom teacher, board president, or superintendent; it doesn’t matter, every young person should look to you for leadership, support and guidance. And since, I never got that, I do like to roll up my sleeves. I know, my role as a superintendent, I will try to stay in my lane as much as I can, but from time to time I want to get down on the field where the game is being played. I want to see it, you know right there on the front lines, and not just read a report, so I’m in the schools at least twice a week. I’m there all day so if you need to meet with me, you’re meeting me at one of my schools, because that’s my priority. My staff needs to see that I can play the game with them.
What is the role of black educators in this community?
It is important that this community understands that black educators have the responsibility of their role as educators, but also to transform the system of education so that it truly does meet the needs of all students, as it should have been intended to do at inception.
We thank you, here at My Black Colorado for the work that you do in the education system and for the community. We stand behind you and hope that you have great success in your endeavors to create an impactful learning environment for all students. Teamwork work will make the dream work.