Linda Thornton Thomas’ educational footprint in Prince George’s County started more than 20 years ago as an elementary school principal, school board member and education chair for the county’s NAACP branch.
Now the Temple Hills resident wants to promote education as one of her top agenda items as the new president of the county’s NAACP branch.
According to the Maryland Department of Education, last year’s graduation rate of 76 percent for Prince George’s public schools ranked the second-lowest in the state ahead of Baltimore City.
“We need to move [up in the rankings],” Thornton Thomas said. “There are ways we can do that.”
There’s been a slight delay in formulating a plan.
Although members elected Thornton Thomas in November, she didn’t officially begin her presidency until last month.
That’s because former branch President Bob Ross challenged the results. Without a regional director to assess them a few weeks after the election, the votes couldn’t be official until the national board held its first meeting Feb. 20.
“We lost a little time in getting the transition,” said Thornton Thomas, who’s resided in Prince George’s since 1985 after moving from Virginia’s Northern Neck region. “We were still working, but working in a quiet zone.”
When Thornton Thomas isn’t conducting NAACP business, she writes grants, conducts workforce development training and other programs as chief executive officer of National Coalition of Resources. She has four children and nine grandchildren.
At the top of her plans for the branch’s education committee, Thornton Thomas is finding ways for the school system to incorporate what she calls “senior knowledge” into the curriculum.
“That knowledge from those individuals who are retired scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and other disciplines,” she said. “If we got those individuals in there and just spend a couple of days a week. That would truly help us be more competitive.”
The branch will use its 11 at-large members to work alongside mayors in municipalities, especially those in economically distressed areas, to assess the number of businesses in that location because “we don’t have enough businesses in the county.”
With 1,100 members in the branch, Thornton Thomas said she’s wants to obtain status under Internal Revenue Service section 501(c)3 as a nonprofit for educational and charity purposes. It would allow the group to apply for grants and receive donations that are tax deductible.
Currently it has section 501(c)4 status. Groups with that designation are regarded by the IRS as a social welfare unit that cannot apply for grants, but can receive unlimited donations that are not tax-deductible for the donor.
“That’s one of the things I hope we may be able to change…so we can get the funds to help people,” Thornton Thomas said. “We want to connect with individuals who are not members of the NAACP. We certainly want to encourage them to become members, but even if they’re not, we still want to support them. There’s so much more we can do in the county and make it better.”