Dabbs Elementary students recently celebrated ‘80s Day by dressing in ‘80s-inspired clothes. According to DE Assistant Principal Melissa Fagan, the event began with fifth-graders analyzing ‘80s songs to find themes, and the teachers and students thought it would be fun to dress up. “Everyone liked the idea so much that we decided that it would be fun for the whole school to get in on it,” she said. “Everyone needs a bit of normalcy and something that will put a smile on their face.”
Today, the District received word that retired DPISD School Board Member Donna Thomas passed away yesterday after a long illness. Thomas served on the Board from 1992-2016 and held the offices of board president and vice president several times during her tenure.
Superintendent Stephen Harrell said that, while it is unfortunate that Thomas passed away, it is also fitting that her passing took place in January, which is School Board Recognition Month in Texas.
“There’s simply not enough time or space to recognize the depth of her contributions,” Harrell said. “She brought so many talents and skills to the Board. She moved to Deer Park in 1957, so she had firsthand experience with the community going back several decades. She was a local businesswoman and was active in the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and library board. And her knowledge of the law, particularly school law, made her an expert voice of balance and reason through some of the toughest years the District has ever faced.”
Trustee Rhonda Lowe, who served several years on the Board with Thomas, said she misses Thomas’ steady hand and discipline. “She never got rattled and always looked at issues with a pragmatic disposition,” Lowe explained. “Nothing could knock Donna off of her center.”
In typical fashion, Thomas once offered a concise summary of her contributions: “I would like to be remembered as a team player with collaborative and leadership skills. My legacy probably is that of a policy wonk.”
Thomas believed steadfastly in the importance of the school board as a unified seven-member group. In 2002, she explained her view of the Board’s role to the Deer Park Broadcaster.
“Membership of the team changes the dynamics a little bit; there has been a variety of philosophies,” she said. “But it has been my observation that those differences in philosophies take a back seat to a unified mission to create a vision and to do what we can to help the District to meet that vision. It used to be a seven-member board, and if there were four votes, then there was no discussion necessary. That is no longer the culture. Consensus building is the present culture, and when we have differences, we work it out.”
Thomas was also an active member of the Deer Park Education Foundation Board of Directors, was a longtime member of the Deer Park Rotary Club, and was a past president of the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce. She was well-versed in the business of public education and taught school law as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. She had a private law and mediation practice, was a former prosecutor, and was the municipal judge in Morgan’s Point from 1988-2008. Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton proclaimed Aug. 16, 2016 “Donna Thomas Day” in her honor.
Lowe said Thomas’ legacy is likely felt most at campuses like the Early Childhood Center and Deer Park High School-Wolters Campus. “She had a particular connection to Wolters as she was a champion for students who needed that extra helping hand,” Lowe said. “She was a staunch believer in early childhood education as well. She was the epitome of what an effective school board member should strive to be. She will be greatly missed.”
At Thomas’ request, there will not be a funeral service. A family member encourages friends to make memorial donations to the Deer Park Education Foundation, 2800 Texas Avenue, Deer Park, TX 77536.