Fayette County school board member Doug Barnett made no secret of his support for two candidates who tried unsuccessfully to unseat fellow board members Daryl Love and Melissa Bacon, the board’s chairwoman.
Barnett even had a photo on his Facebook page of candidates Sharon Mofield-Boswell and Samantha Rodarte, both of whom lost in last Tuesday’s election.
But Barnett, Love and Bacon all said afterward that they can work together.
Barnett’s actions during the general election highlighted divisions on the school board. He canvassed neighborhoods with Rodarte and openly campaigned for Rodarte and Mofield-Boswell, posting Tuesday night, “not the result that I wanted to see in the school board elections.”
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In the days leading up to the election, Barnett on his Facebook page called Mofield-Boswell and Rodarte his “sisters-in-arms in the name of educational equity” and encouraged people to vote for them. After the October monthly meeting, Barnett criticized Bacon in a post. Barnett said when he advocated for a middle school child asking for a waiver in policy, the chairwoman gave him the “evil eye roll.”
“Demeanor like that is completely uncalled for,” Barnett said in the post.
In an Oct. 21 Facebook post, Barnett noted that Bacon was required to take training as a result of a September Office of Education Accountability report. The report said that in past years, Bacon violated state law by trying to get district staff hired and fired and otherwise involving herself in personnel matters at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Bacon has said she was trying to reflect her constituents’ concerns and that she would never intentionally overstep her bounds.
With Amanda Ferguson’s resignation from the board Wednesday, there are four board members: Waffle House owner Ray Daniels, newly appointed to the board after the death earlier this year of board chairman John Price; Barnett, Love and Bacon. Given the procedures for replacing school board members, it could be weeks before Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt appoints a new member to represent District 4.
Superintendent Manny Caulk has asked the board to work with him as a team. He is trying to raise student achievement with new strategies and new programs. It takes three votes to pass a measure.
Barnett said in a message to the Herald-Leader that he could work as a team with Love and Bacon.
“Absolutely. I am committed to working with anyone who is willing to meet me halfway,” Barnett said. “The commitment to meet me halfway must be sincere, respectful, be in the best interests of ALL students, teachers and staff and be compliant with state law and board policy.”
In response, Love and Bacon said they are going to work as a team with all board members.
Love told the Herald-Leader, “I ran my campaign under the slogan of listening, collaborating and leading. I’m committed to working with our entire board team, adhering to the board’s ‘standards of practice’ that we adopted in the fall of 2015. In order to create a world-class school district, we must have and operate as a collaborative high functioning board, serving the needs of our students, teachers and staff, and the community.”
Bacon said that as chairwoman, she is “committed to facilitating a respectful working relationship with all board members.”
“While there may be board decisions that involve disagreement among members, those differences will be discussed in a mutually respectful manner and a consensus will be reached with the best interest of our students at heart,” she said.
The board has a Standards of Practice in place to strengthen board relations so conflicts may be resolved in a way that preserves a positive working relationship, Bacon said.
“Any differences should be resolved as a board in private adhering to our Standards of Practice,” she said, “as opposed to a social media forum or in the local paper. I’m confident that we can clear up any misconceptions and move forward together to continue serving our students.”