Supporters want to keep VHS band director

Submitted PhotoMichael Thomas' contract reportedly has not been renewed as Valdosta High School band director. Supporters spoke for the 2017 Georgia Music Educators Association Music Educator of the Year Tuesday evening during the Valdosta Board of Education meeting.

VALDOSTA — A crowd visited the Valdosta Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening not to debate E-SPLOST or teacher bonuses. 

They came to support Valdosta High School band director Michael Thomas.

News recently broke that Valdosta City Schools would not renew Thomas’ contract. He has been the band director for 13 years.

Though the schools cannot comment on personnel issues, the community decided they would.

“Mr. Thomas has grown the program from 50 students to over 100,” said Dan Davis, a Valdosta business owner. “The band at VHS under Mr. Thomas’ leadership has won numerous grand championships and constantly wins superior ratings in competitions.”

Davis, connected to the program because his son is a former band member under Thomas, said he is reconsidering voting for E-SPLOST because of the decision to not renew Thomas’ contract.

He said he heard the decision was made by the system because it wants "to take the band program in another direction."

Davis mentioned Thomas' career achievements such as winning Georgia Music Educators Association Music Educator of the Year in 2017. Davis said the only direction the band would go if it lost Thomas would be down. 

"In the spirit of Winnersville, I request that the Board of Education reconsider and renew Mr. Thomas' contract and not destroy a great, award-winning program," Davis said.

Two other people, a band student and a mother of a band student, spoke at the meeting; they, too, supported Thomas and disagreed with the decision not to renew the contract.

Each time they finished talking to the board, everyone in the room applauded.

"On top of his accomplishments, he has smoothly run the VHS band program," said Amelia Barnett, a band student. "You may not be able to see, but us students see it every day."

She brought with her a petition of more than 100 signatures opposing the alleged contract decision, which she offered to give to the board.

Board Chairman Trey Sherwood said though there is nothing else they can say about the matter because it's personnel, he assured the crowd their voices were heard.

"These things are not taken lightly," Sherwood said. "Thank you all for coming and showing your support for the director."

There was no action taken on the issue Tuesday night, and Thomas has not appeared on any recent personnel lists from this or previous board meetings. 

Thomas could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.

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