Former school official, civic leader dies

In memory: Tom Mills, a former school board mem­ber and one­time pres­id­ent of the Nor­mandy Civic As­so­ci­ation, died on Aug. 2. A Frank­ford nat­ive, he worked for gov­ern­ments and served as a con­sult­ant in jobs loc­ally and around the coun­try and the world. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Fu­ner­al ser­vices were held earli­er this week for Tom Mills, a former school board mem­ber and one­time pres­id­ent of the Nor­mandy Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Mills died on Aug. 2. He was 84.

Mills grew up in Frank­ford. He at­ten­ded Eth­an Al­len Ele­ment­ary School, the former Al­ex­an­der Henry Ele­ment­ary School and Hard­ing Middle School.

At age 16, he dropped out of Frank­ford High School, then served some time in the U.S. Army be­fore re­turn­ing to gradu­ate from Frank­ford. He used the G.I. Bill to at­tend the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania’s Whar­ton School of Busi­ness. In all, he earned four col­lege de­grees.

After gradu­at­ing from Penn in 1953, he went to work in private in­dustry and for gov­ern­ments and served as a con­sult­ant in jobs loc­ally and around the coun­try and the world.

In 1956, he and his wife, June, moved to Nor­com Road in Nor­mandy. They raised four sons, and Mills was act­ive in the com­munity. His battles in­cluded try­ing to shut down the Tattle­tails go-go bar on Roosevelt Boulevard near Comly Road.

In 1985, May­or Wilson Goode ap­poin­ted Mills to the school board. They had at­ten­ded Penn’s Fels Cen­ter for Gov­ern­ment to­geth­er two dec­ades earli­er. On the board, Mills was the go-to mem­ber for budget­ing ex­pert­ise.

Mills, a Demo­crat and one­time 66th Ward com­mit­tee­man, made three bids for of­fice.

In 1978, he lost a primary in the 170th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict.

In 1991, he un­suc­cess­fully chal­lenged Re­pub­lic­an City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill, re­ceiv­ing 35 per­cent of the vote.

In 1996, he made an un­suc­cess­ful chal­lenge to Re­pub­lic­an state Sen. Hank Sal­vatore, tak­ing 41 per­cent of the vote. Sal­vatore died last month.

In 1999, Mills crossed party lines to en­dorse Re­pub­lic­an Sam Katz over Demo­crat John Street for may­or. In re­tali­ation, the Demo­crat­ic City Com­mit­tee stripped him of his com­mit­tee post.

Mills left the school board in 1999, hav­ing served the max­im­um two full six-year terms.

On the school board, Mills op­posed cuts to child­care ser­vices and the dis­tri­bu­tion of con­doms in pub­lic schools. He be­lieved the school dis­trict’s former cluster setup was a waste of money.

Mills voted against a hefty pay raise for Con­stance Clayton, the su­per­in­tend­ent of schools, but was oth­er­wise a Clayton sup­port­er.

Mills was not a sup­port­er of an­oth­er school su­per­in­tend­ent, Dav­id Horn­beck. He chal­lenged the ac­cur­acy of stand­ard­ized test scores boas­ted by Horn­beck. He also faul­ted him for a poor re­la­tion­ship with the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled state le­gis­lature, which Mills main­tained hurt the school dis­trict in seek­ing state fund­ing.

“Tom was an amaz­ing ment­or to me,” said Jacques Lurie, who served on the school board with Mills. “Tom was just an un­be­liev­able wealth of know­ledge. It’s a woe­ful un­der­state­ment to say that his know­ledge of budget­ing was im­press­ive. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Mills’ pro­fes­sion­al ex­per­i­ence also in­cluded teach­ing fin­ance and gov­ern­ment­al budget­ing at Penn; serving as deputy man­aging dir­ect­or un­der May­or Jim Tate; and serving as deputy fin­ance dir­ect­or un­der May­or Bill Green.

Mills is sur­vived by sons Thomas Jr., Steph­en, Mark and Craig; broth­er Wal­ter; sis­ter Edith Tin­ari; and eight grand­chil­dren. His wife, June, pre­ceded him in death.

Me­mori­al con­tri­bu­tions in his name may be made to MaST Com­munity Charter School, 1800 By­berry Road, Phil­adelphia, PA 19116. He served on MaST’s Board of Trust­ees. ••

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