Education

Fayette school board member apologizes for Facebook post targeting his election opponent

Fayette County school board member Doug Barnett
Fayette County school board member Doug Barnett

Re-elected Fayette County Public Schools board member Doug Barnett apologized Sunday for a post he made on his Facebook page that said he wouldn't consider any superintendent candidate who supported his opponent in the Nov. 4 general election.

Barnett's comments, posted at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, after Superintendent Tom Shelton announced his resignation to take the executive director's post at the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, said, "Well ... I hope your afternoon and evening was more interesting than mine! It appears that we are going to select a new superintendent for FCPS. Allow me to say two things that are non-negotiable: 1) I will NOT consider any candidate who will not improve morale within the district or consider employees as key collaborators; 2) woe be upon you if you supported my opponent. You just lost your seat at the table! Just saying!"

In the election, Barnett, a senior staff attorney in the Kentucky Court of Appeals who was first elected to the board in 2010, defeated Roger Cleveland, an associate professor in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University, in the 2nd District. The district covers northern Fayette County.

"I was just blowing off steam," Barnett told the Herald-Leader on Sunday in a telephone interview. "For whatever reason, I typed on Facebook. When I realized my post was inappropriate, I deleted it. Nothing more, nothing less. It wasn't directed at anybody. I was just upset about some of the negative things that had been said about me in the campaign. ... I posted something in anger. It was something I shouldn't have done.

"I am so sorry."

Barnett made similar apologetic comments Saturday on his Facebook page.

"Recently, I posted something on this page that may have been misinterpreted by some," the post said. "If you were offended, I apologize to you. I didn't appreciate some aspects of my opponent's campaign and I posted something in anger. Nothing more than that. I have removed the post. I am looking forward to a very open, transparent and inclusive search for a new superintendent."

Barnett said Sunday he would consider all candidates.

"Honestly, I was just trying to gloat a little, and that backfired. I didn't mean anything by it," Barnett said. He said the story should not be about him "posting something stupid on Facebook. It needs to be about us finding and attracting the best candidate for Fayette County schools."

Cleveland told the Herald-Leader in an email Sunday that he didn't think Barnett's post was an accident. "It was not misinterpreted," Cleveland wrote. "He said exactly what he meant. This is consistent with his Facebook postings and emails before, during and after the election. I did not state anything negative during the campaign race.

"Mr. Barnett needs to understand that the board seat does not belong to him; it belongs to the thousands of stakeholders in District 2. Whether they voted for him or not, they still deserve voice. The election is over; his attention should be on student achievement."

Fayette board chairman John Price said Sunday that he expected that Barnett will make the best decision for the students in Fayette County Public Schools.

"As board chair, I am disappointed in the post and I am appreciative that it has been removed. I would expect that Mr. Barnett would be willing to listen to any constituent and act to do what is best for our students."

Price said the board would begin discussing the search for a new superintendent Monday, when the school board has a planning meeting. Shelton's last work day is Dec. 12.

No potential candidates have been identified publicly.

Cleveland said he had no intention of applying for the position.

"I will say this: If the school board does not work collaboratively and if all school board members do not embrace equity, we will be looking for another superintendent in another three years," Cleveland said.

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