Cape School Board Adopts Name of New District Middle School
The new middle school in the Cape Henlopen School District has a name. The naming committee received over 100 name suggestions – and 48 of them were to name the school ‘Frederick D Thomas Middle School.’ The Cape Henlopen School Board during its Thursday (September 22) meeting discussed the recommended name and was in unanimous agreement that the new middle school will be the Frederick D. Thomas Middle School. The old Shields Elementary School is being demolished and the new middle school will go up on its footprint and is expected to be open for the 2024-2025 school year.
The Talk of Delmarva doesn’t normally take “Letters to the Editor” however an email that was sent from Diaz Bonville on the naming of the new Cape Middle School explains much more about Frederick D. Thomas, the man.
Letter to the Editor: Thank you Cape Henlopen School Board
My sincere thanks to the Cape Henlopen School Board for voting to name the new
Lewes Middle School after Frederick D. Thomas, a long-time educator, teacher,
principal, mentor, and leader just to name a few to so many from diverse and ethnic
backgrounds in the Cape Henlopen School District.
Let me share some significant facts about Mr. Thomas. Former Lewes Mayor George
H.P. Smith remembers Frederick D. Thomas as an extremely likeable gentleman who
served him as a role model. Both men graduated from Delaware State College (now
University) and entered the state’s public-school systems, albeit a few years apart.
After graduating from college in 1946, he taught grades one through five in a one-room
school in Williamsville, Sussex County. In 1951 he moved to Phillip C. Showell School
in Selbyville, teaching grades four through six. Cape Henlopen School District records
show that he began teaching grades seven and eight at the Dupont Avenue School,
part of the Lewes Special School District, in 1953, rising to Principal and sixth grade
teacher in 1967. Following desegregation of Delaware schools, he served as principal
at the Richard A. Shields Elementary School, and later, in 1976, he was appointed
principal of the Lewes Junior High School. Fred stepped down from that position
shortly before his death from lung cancer in 1978.
This man was busy. He was a member of many organizations including the Delaware
State Teachers Association, the State Pension Board, the Sussex County Community
Mental Health Board, and the Sussex County Draft Board. He also served as the
chairperson of the Lewes Planning and Zoning Commission in 1972. He was the first
African American member of the Lewes Lions Club (George H.P. Smith was second).
Frederick has been described throughout his career and even today with words
reserved for the most special of individuals: pioneer, trailblazer, legendary, mentor,
friend. Many of his former students, parents, educators, and community are
beneficiaries of his extraordinary mentorship, and we know countless individuals have
stories of his caring and support of all children, staff, and parents he provided us all
key moments in their future. He has been instrumental in strengthening diversity,
quietly recruiting faculty, staff, and students to school, and then welcoming them and
making vital introductions to Lewes and the larger Cape Henlopen School District
community. Thomas was devoted to his wife, family, school, and the larger community.
In short, Frederick exemplifies the Cape Henlopen School District mission of educating
leaders who made a difference in the world in every aspect of his personal and
professional life. In addition to his extraordinary intellect and accomplishments, he was
a man whose humility and genuine warmth made him beloved by all who knew him.
Indeed, he once defined power and influence as “the ability to make things happen
without people knowing that you are responsible.” This was how he led & lived his life,
and the honor of naming Frederick D. Thomas Middle School will carry on the great
legacy he left behind in the Cape Henlopen School District.
I do believe it was only just and right for the Cape Henlopen School Board to honor
Frederick D. Thomas with the naming of the new middle school.
Thank you for making the impossible possible.
Diaz J. Bonville
Co-Founder West Rehoboth Children & Youth Program
President West Side New Beginnings, Inc.