Fayette school board member should recuse self from superintendent search, parent says

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

Fayette County school board member Doug Barnett should recuse himself from the superintendent selection in the wake of comments he made on Facebook last month, a parent said during Monday's board meeting.

Lezell Lowe took issue with a Facebook post in which Barnett said he wouldn't consider any superintendent candidate who had supported Roger Cleveland, Barnett's opponent in the Nov. 4 general election. The board is choosing a replacement for Tom Shelton, who resigned to become executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

Lowe said at the meeting that Barnett's recusal would be "the only way we are going to have fairness and integrity in the process, if its really all about kids."

"What was said was a form of intimidation or bullying to which any child in Fayette County Public Schools would have been reprimanded, suspended or expelled," he said.

In the November election, Barnett, who was first elected to the board in 2010, defeated Cleveland in the 2nd District race. The district covers northern Fayette County.

Barnett made his comments on Facebook on Nov. 6, the day Shelton's resignation was announced. The post 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!"

He apologized three days later and said he would consider all candidates. Barnett did not say anything in response to Lowe during Monday's meeting and declined to comment afterward.

"I was just blowing off steam," Barnett told the Herald-Leader on Nov. 9. "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."

After Monday's board meeting, Lowe said that "the community is divided by Mr. Barnett's comments" and that the board should have taken some action.

"There are many people who supported Dr. Cleveland," said Lowe, who hosts a radio show on WUKY. Barnett's comments have tainted the superintendent search process, he said.

Board chairman John Price said after the meeting that he didn't think he had the authority to ask Barnett to recuse himself.

"I have no authority over another board member," said Price. "People think I'm their boss, but I'm not."

"If Doug is recused," Price asked, "who represents his district in terms of all of his constituents in this process?"

Price said that the Facebook post was "inappropriate" and that Barnett realized that. "Unfortunately in the society we live in, once it's out there, it's out there forever," Price said.