His goal is to change the culture.
Sid Thompson, a “senior fellow” at Center X, loves the ocean.
That love took him to the sea as a Merchant Marine, getting his Bachelor of Science Degree from the United States Merchant Marine Academy. During the Korean conflict he served in the US Navy. This is where he slid into teaching. Many of the enlisted men, black and white, from urban cities like Los Angeles, or rural areas like Appalachia and the deep south, lacked high school diplomas and wanted to pass the GED. So Lieutenant Sid Thompson became a training officer, helping these young men attain their common goal, the equivalent of high school graduation.
Center Xers know him as the first African-American Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is most proud of restructuring the large district into small complexes, into communities where the feeder schools were linked to the high schools in such a way that vertical teaming, vertical planning was possible, where parents felt a sense of community. He also started a movement to require the teaching of algebra in the eighth grade, long before it became a state requirement.
He brags about Center X as the place where cohorts of teachers use Los Angeles schools as training grounds for their teacher education students—schools in neighborhoods which for generations have suffered from their own insecurities, communities where the students don’t get an equal break.
His goal is to change the culture. He never wants to hear from any teacher or administrator these words: That’s the way it is. Or that’s the way they are. Because he knows that’s not the way it is and that’s not the way they are.
Sid is semi-retired now but he’s still a fixture at Center X. When he’s not here, you might find him reading or attending an opera or traveling.
Or you might find him sailing his boat off the Channel Islands. He has never lost his love for the sea. Just as he has never lost his love for teaching, for changing the culture in the field of education, for setting the standard for social justice educators everywhere.