Clark County citizens group brings demands to school board

jwarren@herald-leader.comJune 19, 2012 

WINCHESTER — A citizens group tried to submit a list of 10 demands to the Clark County Board of Education on Tuesday night, including calls for the resignations of two board members and an investigation of conditions in the school district.

But Joan Graves, spokeswoman for the group, Stand Up Clark County, was ruled out of order before she could submit the demands.

Graves spoke for several minutes, raising questions about Superintendent Elaine Farris' annual evaluation, which the board was to consider later in the meeting.

Board chairwoman Judy Hicks told Graves her time was running out. When Graves kept talking, Hicks immediately called a five-minute recess. The board meeting resumed after Graves left the room.

Stand Up Clark County organized earlier this year, mainly to address concerns over the firing of Paul Columbia as football coach at George Rogers Clark High School in December. Columbia has said he was fired about two months after Farris sent him text messages questioning the playing time he was giving her grandson.

During a Stand Up rally last month, Columbia's wife, Patti Columbia, called for Farris to resign or be fired. Patti Columbia says the group has broadened its agenda to include general concerns about the district.

About a dozen Stand Up members attended Tuesday night's board meeting.

Among other things, their demands included a call for an "independent outside agency" to investigate "current conditions" in the district, the immediate institution of a workplace bullying program and a "town hall type" forum to address special education issues.

They called for Farris and board members to apologize for "blatant disrespect of the community" and asked that Hicks and Deanna Wolfe resign from the board.

Graves said before the meeting that she didn't expect the group's demands to be met, but she said she hoped the board would negotiate their concerns.

Addressing the board Tuesday night, Graves argued that Farris had not met goals she set when she became superintendent, particularly citing a goal to improve public trust and confidence through communication.

"I think we can all safely say that has not been met in any way, shape or form," Graves said.

Farris is a veteran Kentucky educator who has made Kentucky educational history. When she was named superintendent of the Shelby County school district in 2004, she became the first black person ever to permanently head a Kentucky public school district. Three blacks previously served as interim superintendents in Kentucky.

Farris took over leadership of the Clark County schools in 2009, and she was a finalist for superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools in 2011.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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