Archive for CCPS

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.

Winchester Sun Article On Collins Firing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by Joan Graves

Winchester Sun Article On Collins Firing

Clink the red link above  to read Winchester Sun Sports Reporter Keith Taylor’s article on the on the firing of GRC Head Football Coach Steve Collins.  Stand Up Clark County would like to salute Keith Taylor as a great, reporter with integrity and thank him for all he does for our community.

GRC Principal David Bolen Releases Football Coach Steve Collins

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 27, 2014 by Joan Graves

George Rogers Clark High School Principal David Bolen, has removed football coach Steve Collins of his duties.  Collins has been the subject of extensive controversy since taking the position as coach two years ago.  Bolen and other officials afforded Collins significant leniency in the face of multiple allegations.  That leniency stems from the fact that Collins was inserted as coach during a significantly controversial time.  However, since that time Collins has fallen short of what many expected him to do.

Within months of his arrival allegations surfaced of Collins and/or his staff bullying players, cursing them and at one point calling one a F#$%ing retard.  That led to a firestorm of emotion from parents of players and the special needs community.  Collins was never criminally charged or reprimanded by the school system, in response to those allegations. Months later Collins attempted to repair his image by lobbying for improvements to the football field but those efforts never got off the ground.

Collins’s inability to win on the field and the constant rumors and allegations off the field combined to become his ultimate demise. Preserving and repairing the image and integrity of GRC must be Principal Bolen’s first priority.  He is in a new building, with a new board and superintendent.  He is acutely aware of the community’s overwhelming desire and strong commitment to replacing failing programs, leadership and other venues that hold our students back.  This community is greatly invested in the overall improvement of every school in our county.  And they have proven they are in this for the long-haul.

It should never be underestimated what a grass roots effort of a very concerned community is willing and capable of doing for the benefit of our students.  Stand Up Clark County for giving ample opportunity but never being willing to settle for second best.

(Once again, I must remind all readers that this blog is considered an opinion piece.)

CNN iReport

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 15, 2013 by Joan Graves

CNN iReport

As requested I’m posting the link to my CNN iReport. After you read it don’t forget to recommend it. If enough people click the button for it to be on CNN they will do an on air broadcast about it. National exposure could mean a huge difference in how the facilities plan plays out.  

New Elaine Farris Video

Posted in Board of Education (General) with tags , , , on October 21, 2012 by Joan Graves

We have just been made aware of a You Tube video featuring Superintendent Elaine Farris, called “Message to CCPS Elaine Farris Clark County KY Schools”.

The video is computer animated and is designed as a message to CCPS and Elaine Farris.

Stand Up Clark County is not affiliated with this video. We had no knowledge of any video in the works or even a consideration of doing a video. Because there is a group claiming responsibility for the video we wanted to make sure everyone knew that group is not affiliated with Stand Up Clark County.

CCPS Employees Protect Yourself: Know The Law About Election Participation

Posted in Documents, Elaine Farris, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 21, 2012 by Joan Graves

Did you know that there are laws that spell out exactly how school employees should conduct themselves with board of education candidates? If an employee breaks one of the laws he or she may be fired and the candidate  removed from the ballot. It’s the responsibility of the superintendent to distribute to employees the specific laws. I do not know if Elaine Farris has done that or not but I don’t want to see an employee fired for something he or she doesn’t know. Therefore, you will find the Kentucky statutes outlining what an employee can and cannot do with a candidate for the school board listed below.

School District Employees’ Participation In School Board Campaigns

The specific law about employee participation in campaigns by school board candidates is KRS 161.164 and it states in full:

1.  No employee of the local school district shall take part in the management of any political campaign for school board.

2. No candidate for school board shall solicit or accept any political assessment, subscription, contribution or service of any employee of the school district.

3.  No person shall use or promise to use, directly or indirectly, any official authority or influence, whether possessed or anticipated, to secure or attempt to secure, for any person an appointment or advantage in appointment to a position as teacher or employee of any district board of education, or an increase in pay or other advantage in employment in any such position, for the purpose of influencing the vote or political action of any person.

4.  No teacher or employee of any district board of education shall be appointed or promoted to, or demoted or dismissed from, any position, or in any way favored or discriminated against with respect to employment because of his political or religious opinions or affiliations or ethnic origin or race or color or sex or age or disabling condition.

5.  The local superintendent shall inform all school employees of the provisions of this section.

Paragraph 1 originally included a prohibition against school district employees taking part in the “activities” of any political campaign for school board. However, in 1992 the Kentucky Supreme Court, in State Board for Elementary and Secondary Education v. Howard, 834 S,W 2nd 657, declared the Prohibition against participation in activities of political campaigns for school board to be unconstitutional.

In 1992, the Attorney General’s Office issued Opinion 92-145 listing specific examples of “permitted conduct and prohibited services.” The following is the quoted text from that opinion:

PERMITTED CONDUCT: The following are permitted pursuant to KRS 161.164(2):

1.  Registration and voting.

2.  Nominating petitions. School district employees may voluntarily sign a school board nominating petition.

3.  Expression of opinion. School district employees may privately and publicly express their personal opinions regarding a school board candidate, either in person, by telephone, or in writing.

4.  Political pictures and signs. School district employees may voluntarily display school board campaign signs and other signs on their property.

5.  Badges, buttons, and bumper stickers. School district employees may voluntarily wear school board campaign badges or buttons. However, no school board candidate badges or buttons may be worn by a school district employee while such employee is on official duty.

6.  Campaign literature distribution. A school board candidates may provide on request campaign literature for the personal use of school district employee.

PROHIBITED SERVICES:  A school board candidate can not solicit or accept the following services if performed by a school district employee:

1.  Campaign literature distribution. A school board candidate may not solicit or accept the distribution of campaign literature or material by a school employee.

2.  Solicitation of political support. A school board candidate may not solicit or accept the services of a school district employee in canvassing a district or soliciting political support for a school board candidate, either in person, by telephone or in writing. However, school district employees may state, in writing or in person, their personal opinions to others.

3.  Providing assistance or working for the school board candidate’s campaign.

The Attorney General’s Office has consistently recognized that school board candidates may not solicit or accept contributions and services from school district employees. This prohibition applies equally to agents of the candidate. Therefore, the school board candidate’s campaign manager and staff are prohibited from solicitation or accepting the services of school employees on behalf of the campaign.

Caveat:  The law places the burden on the candidate not to solicit or “accept” the prohibited conduct. This means that even if you are never asked to do anything this is prohibited, if you voluntarily do so (i.e. contribute money, pass out campaign literature, etc.), you could be jeopardizing the candidacy of the person you support.

      Many of you have asked me why Steve created a Facebook fan page rather than a group. In order to create a group you must include people automatically or send an invitation to join the group. If he did either of those things he would be breaking the law and be disqualified from running.

It’s great to see so many people Standing Up in Clark County. Keep sending us your questions and don’t hesitate to Believe with Steve.

Felony Charges For School Board? Winchester Sun’s Bob Flynn Explains

Posted in Board Meetings, Documents, In The News, Winchester Sun with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by Joan Graves

Activist: District changed Video

Board attorney denies meeting footage altered

By Bob Flynn The Winchester Sun

 

Hostilities between a local activist and the Clark County Board of Education escalated recently when Joan Graves accused the school district of tampering with a recording of one of its meetings and suggested employees had committed a felony in doing so.

Graves’ accusations brought a strong denial from both the Board and its attorney.

Shortly after the Board’s June 19 meeting, Graves, spokesperson for Stand UP Clark County, sent a letter to Board members and the school district complaining about the quality and content of a video of the meeting that was later uploaded on the district’s website.

The school district posts videos following each meeting, and Graves said she watches them each month. When she tried to watch the June video, there were problems with the sound on part of the recording, and there were parts that were blank, leading her to think it had been altered in some way.

“When they first put them up, there was a series of five tapes. One didn’t play at all, another one just went blank. But the first thing I noticed when people started contacting me was the time on the tapes. They weren’t right,” Graves said. “The running times from one tape to the other didn’t match up. There was a lag time of several minutes between tapes when they should have been running together. And there was no video at all of the end of the meeting when they read the superintendent’s evaluation. Clearly, the tape was altered.”

Her letter, titled “Public Record Tampering,” asked Board members to correct the problems with the video and pointed out that the recordings were protected from tampering by Kentucky law.

It reads:

“The videoing of the board meeting is done with equipment purchased with public money. It is a recording of a public event. Therefore, it falls under the protection of the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Kentucky law states that tampering with a public record is a Class D felony. According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, punishment for being found guilty of a Class D felony is 1-5 years of imprisonment; fines of $1,000 to $10,000, or double the gain from the commission of the offense up to $20,000 for corporations. Despite our differences, there is not a single one of you I would want to see in jail. Please do not take it to that level. You need to correct this wrong and put online a video the public can view. In the future, make certain that the camera is always on when the board is in open session and that no one tampers with it.”

Several days after receiving the letter, Board Chairwoman Judy Hicks and Board attorney Henry Rosenthal responded by mail to Graves’ complaint saying that while there were technical issues with the video equipment during the June 19 meeting, the video had not intentionally been altered.

Hicks’ letter stated that the Board is not required to video or livestream the Board meetings; it is done so as a service to the community “as a method of providing transparency in our decisions.”

Her letter also stated, “The board room where the meetings take place is not a professional recording studio, and the videotaping equipment is considerably less expensive than that used in professional studios. While the board could approve the purchase of more expensive video recording equipment, we prefer to continue the priority of using our limited equipment funding in the classrooms of the schools in the district. We apologize for the equipment malfunction that was unforseen and unintentional.”

Rosenthal’s letter explained when the technical difficulties were discovered by school district employees and said the allegations of tampering were baseless. It also reiterated that the district is not required to video the meetings and could discontinue the video posting.

“A technical issue was experienced at the start of the meeting and the technology employee attempted, without success, to determine the problem during the meeting of June 19-20, 2012. The actual problem was discovered during normal working hours on June 20 and the recording has been improved as much as reasonably possible. Accusations of ‘Public Record Tampering’ are without merit,” Rosenthal’s letter stated.

“From time to time, other technical problems beyond the control of employees may occur. Quite, frankly, it is unfair to subject an employee to such accusations absent any basis in fact. Such apparent baseless allegations of tampering may have a stifling effect on future broadcast recordings of meetings. As a matter of law, such broadcasts and recordings are not required. In addition, the Board of Education could establish policies determining what portions of the public meeting can and will be broadcasts and recordings. Be that as it may, the Board of Education initiated in good faith the broadcast and recording of its meetings and, I assume, will continue to do so in the future.”

Graves said that while she wasn’t surprised by the school district’s explanation about the video, she wasn’t satisfied with it and she planned to pursue the matter further. She also warned that it wasn’t a good idea for the Board to discontinue posting the videos.

“I knew this was going to be their response. It was exactly what I thought I would get from them. But to respond with a threat not to do the broadcasting would be a very bad choice for them. No, they don’t have to do them. But it is a good community tool, and if they choose to shut that down just because they can’t get it right, they are really going to have some irate community members on their hands,” Graves said. “I’m not through with this. I am going to request an audiotape of the meeting, and I am going to go to central office to view the tape, then I need to get back in touch with Jerry Carlton at the Library and Archives to see if I can get access through open records or whatever, to their uploads to Ustream.”

When contacted by the Sun this week, Carlton said if Graves wasn’t happy with the school district’s response and wanted to pursue the issue further, she could, but it would have to be done through the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office.

“Our office has no standing as far as bringing suit on anything like this. If anyone wants to do that they need to appeal to the attorney general’s office, and it would be up to them to do something,” Carlton said. “On things like this it’s simple. You have to prove that there was criminal intent on tampering with the public document, in this case the video. But proving criminal intent is a hard thing to do. I’ve seen time and again that appeals go to the AG’s office alleging tampering, and nine times out of 10, the AG’s office will come back and say, ‘If they don’t have it, we can’t really do much about it.’ That’s what it boils down to.”

Graves said that she would continue to look at her options concerning the video and would craft a response to Rosenthal’s letter.

She has approached the School Board several times in recent months with other problems she feels need addressing in the district. And though she hasn’t always been successful in her attempts to engage the Board in dialog about those concerns, Graves said, she and the group will continue to closely monitor the Board and the school district.

“One of the reasons I did this was I wanted them to know that we are watching them, and we’re not going to let anything pass,” Graves said. “We are moving toward a point to where something is going to have to give, and it’s not going to be me. The Board is going to have to reach a point where they are going to have to say they are going to do something and change things they are doing or take their chances in November. I wouldn’t advise the latter. But that is their choice.”

Contact Bob Flynn at bflynn@winchestersun.com.

Petition on Change.org

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 10, 2012 by Joan Graves

A petition has been started calling for the resignation of CCPS Superintendent Elaine Farris. Based upon behaviors, attitudes, her own words and actions the community has judged her performance and found her grossly lacking. It is unacceptable for the board of education to ignore the mounds of evidence showing that our schools, students and community are all suffering under Farris’s educational “leadership”. The board may choose to continue down this path of self-destruction but in November the community will vote them out to save and protect our students and teachers. This is the dawning of a new educational era for Clark County. We will choose this moment and make the best of it as we shake off the old and run to the new. Now is when it matters. Now is when we act. Now is the pivotal moment we rise from our educational ruins and become more than we’ve ever been, more than we can imagine. Stand Up Clark County – today you are a child’s hero. http://www.change.org/petitions/clark-county-superintendent-resign

Judy Considers Breaking Policy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by Joan Graves

Judy Considers Breaking Policy

In this email Judy clearly spells out what the policy is regarding mail addressed to the board. Rather than follow procedure she again seeks direction from Elaine. What is that about? Why must Judy always have Elaine’s permission to follow laws, guidelines, rules & policies?