Archive for accountability

All That Glitters Isn’t Golden – Final Lawsuit Resolution

Posted in In The News, Lawsuit, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by Joan Graves

It has been nearly three years since Paul and Patti Columbia and I were sued by former school superintendent, Elaine Farris. It has been three years filled with laughter, tears and an overwhelming amount of disillusionment with the justice system. Our attorney accurately labeled the fiasco when he called it a spite suit. Filing a lawsuit was a last ditch effort at shutting us up and it worked….for a while.

When the community realized all they did not know about the inner workings of the board of education they responded with disgust at the voting booth. They ousted every board member, including long-time incumbent, Debbie Fatkin, who was up for re-election. Two of the three people endorsed by Stand Up Clark County won seats on the board. At last, a new era finally was born, as opposed to being something just stamped on a hat. But that was the crux of the problem. The former administration lacked the ability to understand that strategically placing pretty, pacifist words in key locations never convinced the community they were true. Through actions and in their own legally obtained emails, the former administration presented themselves as people who thought too highly of their own opinions and not enough of the community’s. In essence, they were the makers of their own demise.

While leadership had changed hands it was only a battle won. A war was still very much underway for the Columbias and me and years of our lives were being stolen. Despite being the one to initiate the lawsuit, Elaine and her attorney, Dale Golden, seemed less invested in winning than in dragging the case out. From our perspective, Golden’s single-minded purpose was to see how long he could keep us from actually obtaining a court date. So, rather than allow the case to proceed naturally before a jury Golden employed every delay tactic at his disposal.

I lost track of the number of times we showed up in court only to discover the case had been put off. Or we would be notified that a delay tactic had been initiated only hours before we were to appear in court. All the while your tax dollars were paying for these incessant delays, and Elaine never to show up.

The final stall defense came when Golden, knowing a court date was imminent, called the judge asking for yet another delay. His desperation was evident when his reason was because he thought the trial was in Madison County. Considering the case was filed in Clark County and to my knowledge no one even mentioned Madison County, much less actually gone there, he had no reason to be of that frame of mind. Conveniently enough, when the judge refused, someone from his office, stood up in the courtroom to make her appearance known. Golden may have thought he was very cleaver but his ruse didn’t work. A court date was set and within hours of receiving a March trial date, Golden contacted our attorney to dismiss the case.

All of the accusations made against us, all of the time invested and all the tax dollars spent have all been for naught. The Supreme Court intentionally made it difficult for the wealthy, powerful or public figures to be able to sue the “little man” for slander, liable and the like. Farris held a public office paid with tax payer dollars. Those dollars have the right to be represented, challenged and accounted for. To us, it is a huge travesty of justice to allow someone sue the very people they are supposed to defend and waste the tax dollars they were entrusted to manage. It’s behavior that screams poorly orchestrated leadership and narcissistic behavior, at best.

Regardless, of what it has been, the point is what it is now – and that is over. With the dropping of the lawsuit so goes the facade of victimhood. For the only thing Elaine Farris was ever victim of was herself. That is just extremely sad. Yet, today is not a time to mourn but to celebrate. The vice that has strangled this community’s educational system has been released. Stand Up Clark County has fulfilled our promise to this great community. We have ensured that the public is at last back in public education and proven all that glitters is not Golden.

Beyond Friday Night

Posted in In The News, National Stories, Point of View, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2013 by Joan Graves

GRC Football Coach Steve Collins has recently been requesting media interviews regarding money for an AstroTurf football field. I was dismayed to hear Collins say, that a new field would, “mean a lot” to the players and that “was the most important thing.” That type of statement can project the image that our school system centers on football rather than education.

By investing so much time and energy into obtaining the field, Collins is making it clear an Astro Turf field is a priority for him and the community has a major hand in whether his priority becomes our reality. Players naturally adopt the priorities of their coach. In this case they may cast a negative eye on a community they have been deceived into thinking is against them.

The football program is very valuable and we need to invest in it as we can. Nevertheless, the program is not nearly as important as the players themselves and their peers. It is the responsibility of coaches to graduate balanced, fully educated players with a strong sense of community. That recipe is what transforms a student into a successful adult. What the current football team is receiving is far from what they are due. They deserve more than adults who strive to pit them against their community.

The nightly news is filled with the tragic outcomes of kids being taught their wants and needs are paramount over everyone else’s. The Steubenville High School rape case gained national attention but it was not a lone case. Nor was it something that happened unexpectedly. The situation grew naturally out of an environment of players believing football is the most important thing and having adults cover up their crimes and infractions, depriving them of the positive life experiences that come with accountability.

The mental grooming in Steubenville took place over a period of years. Steubenville was like a cancer tumor growing quietly within while the symptoms were covered up. By the time it was discovered, the roots were so deep it threatened the very life that maintained it. The players’ sense of entitlement was so complete they failed to see the repeated rape of a drunken, passed out girl a problem. In a sick and perverted video frenzy, they documented and shared their crimes.

The few players who knew rape was wrong turned away or gave a half-hearted effort to stop it. Parents try to instill a morale sense in kids but frequently their kids spend the majority of their time with people opposed to those morals or at the very least ignore them. The negative input overrode the positive parenting. Students testified in court, that the high school focused on football and the rules that applied to the general student population did not include football players. Football players had a staff of coaches and others willing to cheat, lie and cover-up crimes for the sake of a win.

Is that what we want for our kids? Do we want to be the next Steubenville? Do you want your kid to be the next to commit suicide over his/her treatment at school or be the next rape statistic? Cases like this happen in Anytown USA. The difference between us in them is that we cling to our fundamental morale foundation.  Steubenville adults taught those kids they did not have to take responsibility. That is a very poisonous lie. Responsibility will come. The only question is, when? Two players sit in prison, for all of their life branded a sex offender while the adults who traded their future for a Friday night win go scot-free.

Clark County has a strong sense of community. When tragedy strikes, we pull together as a single powerful force. Many don’t understand our “small town ways”, including the small towns that surround us. What may work in another county will fail here and vice versa. That is why we should always promote the hiring of Clark County citizens over outsiders. It is important to explore new ideas and ways of doing things. But if those ideas are in direct opposition of our community’s core values then we must stand against them. Clark County has consistently focused on turning out graduates who have learned the importance denying self to help another. We have seen previous GRC students travel hours on a brutally cold winter night just to give a two-minute speech about how a Clark County educator made a positive life changing impact on his life. No one forced them to come. They came because the values they learned taught ran so deep they simply could not do anything else. That is truly the most important thing.

I agree with Collins that we have endured a season of change. For that reason alone, we must demand coaches cater to the needs of the whole child rather than just those of a player. Tragedies such as Steubenville occur when we stop viewing players as evolving individuals who need strong ethical guidance to achieve their full potential.

We need a community supportive of the football program and a football program involved in the community. We want our players hungry for a win but we want them starving to positively impact their community. When the whole child is attended to, games are won, students become high achievers, and communities prosper. We can climb out of this pit of controversy, celebrate great wins in sports, bridge achievement gaps and soar to the top rather than continue to dangle at the bottom of the educational food chain. However, it will only happen when we start looking beyond Friday night.

Stand Up Clark County because life is more than a game.

NOTE: This blog post represents the views and opinions of Joan Graves.

Holliday Needs To Reevaluate & Learn From What We’ve Already Done

Posted in Herald-Leader, In The News, Point of View, Winchester Sun with tags , , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Joan Graves

ImageIt is beyond ridiculous that the state leader in education launches an attack on the last day of school. Clark County has an opportunity to start fresh. We have a new board and will soon have a new superintendent. You did that Clark County. You took a stand and said enough is enough. YOU brought change. YOU were doing something when Frankfort was ignoring us.

If Terry Holliday had actually been paying attention to Clark County he would know that we are a community that fights back against bullies. We are a community that cares. We are a community united and committed. And when a strong community comes together as we have people like Holliday don’t stand a chance.

We have come too far and achieved too much to have someone who doesn’t have the first inkling of what is going on here to threaten and bully us. There is absolutely NO reason to think that we cannot succeed on the state level as we have locally. We’re smarter, more experienced, organized and we’ve got the power of the people.

Stand Up Clark County and show Terry Holliday he picked the wrong community at the right time.

Making a 911 Call To KDE

Posted in Board Meetings, Board of Education (General), Judy Hicks, Point of View, School Board Election 2012 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2013 by Joan Graves

Tonight the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will be our board meeting. Regardless of what you think about the middle school merger KDE’s attendance is important for 5 reasons.

1. Our superintendent has direct ties to KDE.

2. The Winchester Sun recently printed a letter from KDE, they claimed to have obtained through an open records request. However, they would have to have known EXACTLY what to request. Considering, it was a letter to Dr. Kuduk from KDE someone obviously had to tell them. That is an incredible ethics violation that at the very least borders on the illegal.

3. KDE stated months ago that the department had been “inundated with complaints regarding Clark County Schools” for months but they have failed to intervene. They have also stated that they are “carefully monitoring” events.

4. In November the community ousted former board members when the middle school merger was a major voting point. Beth Griffith appeared to change her opinion on the matter frequently however, her conduct on the board makes clear her intention to support this merger despite the fact that the majority of the people she represents is NOT in favor of it. Judy Hicks also continues to support the merger when her constituents are also opposed.

5.  This community heavily voiced their disapproval for this facilities plan, years ago. In fact, prior to the existence of Stand Up Clark County another citizen’s group took their fight against the facilities plan straight to KDE’s door, receiving no assistance.

I have no idea what will happen at tonight’s board meeting. What I do know is that this community is being held hostage by an unwanted, poorly executed facilities plan we never wanted and despite our many pleas to the state they refused to help us. Now, the only people paying for this mess are the very ones they sought assistance to stop it in the first place. In an emergency you dial 911 for help and protection. Clark County made an educational 911 call and have been on hold for years. So, KDE, will you at long last take our call tonight?

Stand Up Clark County!