Alumni, friends of Danville Schools address concerns with district

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, February 11, 2021

We come to you, to the board, and to the administration of the Danville Schools to speak here with one voice. We, as long-time supporters of the DISD have of course heard all kinds of rumors about what boosters would drop out, including our own businesses. The answer for some as you have already been notified is yes. The answer for us, and others, is not yet. We are all seriously considering it, and certainly no money will be coming until we see some resolution to the current toxic situation. The statutes DO give you the right, the mandate, to speak to broken promises and processes. Specifically, your own policy 10.2 provides for the hearing of “Citizen Suggestions & Complaints.” The people of this community deserve to be heard beyond their own social media accounts. We come today to ask you to hear them. You know we are Admirals for life.

Our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, and now sons and daughters all bleed blue. This decision to withhold our support is so incredibly hard for us, and we’d like the opportunity to explain.

It is easy to understand the frustration when none of us feel like the administration has any regard for the will of the people, be they the voters, the taxpayers, the teachers, the boosters, or most importantly the kids. Of course, we are not alone. Again and again I say this is NOT about just one job. It is about a systemic failure of processes and relationships. Has anybody forgotten the decision to try to strip Bate Middle School of its mascot, the last real tie to its own historic sports tradition? I haven’t, and neither have the boosters for our district and the Bate Alumni Association who partnered with Clay to have a

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Bate game every year wearing the famed purple and gold. That is the kind of outreach this community, every community, needs. We talk about our diversity, and if you listen to those alumni, and the parents of kids today, you will know that in the last seven years our program has done more to promote the needs of our minority populations than ever before, and those kind of results don’t show on the scoreboard; those achievements show in the number of kids we have produced (not just in football, but wrestling, track, and others) who came through our 6 a.m. weight program, some of whom have now become the first people in their family to graduate from college. Now we are going to go a “different direction”? I would remind you that the board at that time walked back the decision to reject the history of the Bulldogs, and this board now has the same ability, if you again choose to act. It is probably too late to undo this decision, but you can certainly ensure it never happens again.

In deciding whether we would continue our support of the programs, it is not one decision that will guide us. It is the fabric and history and culture of our unique district that we worry about most. We have talked about the people we learned from like Tom Enslin, and Joe Johnson (68 years without missing a game), and pretty much the entire Jackson family. We talked about what great examples people like Donnie Redd and Chester Ford became for generations that followed, and how successful they became far away from the football fields. We talked about Dukey Turner, and the heroic steps he took to coach five different sports all year long, while being paid for far less than his time, until ultimately his position at the high school was cut altogether and we lost one of the best male role models we could hope to find. The stories we have heard at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies always bring tears to our eyes, and pride to our hearts. It’s too bad more aren’t there to hear the stories from BB Grey or Leonard Coulter talking about coach David Cottrell and integration of Kentucky High School Basketball (when in some places they went, fans called them everything but a child of God). We all loved hearing Lafonda Stallworth talk about EG Plummer and the dynasty of Danville track, or coach Plummer swell with pride when a whole team of his ladies were inducted, or his grief talking about Keisha Tillman. They all were renewed and rejoiced talking about coach Mike Swain’s indomitable spirit, or the determination of wrestling coach Tom Sellers. These are also the people that paid and gave their own sweat to rebuild that weight room in coach Swain’s honor. It does not seem there is a lot of honor in what is going on now.

No, instead, in the middle of a pandemic, with these kids in crises of self-doubt, anxiety, and depression, we just upended what for many was the most stable thing they had: the regimen and discipline of a sports program. No matter what you have heard, the winter and spring conditioning programs we run have been open to anyone who wants to participate, and in fact if you look at the scores from the last state track meet you will notice not only how many were not just multi-sport athletes, but also how many do not play football at all. The long-standing attempts to box that part of this story into a corner are demonstrably untrue. The Board hasn’t known that until now, because boxed in a corner it becomes about a single person.

We are not withholding our funding because of a single person. We are doing it because the way he was treated is just another in a string of examples. This is about a system and a process, and whether that one coach leaves or stays, those problems are not going away without real change in the attitude and responsibility of our front offices.

It’s crushing to us, but we shouldn’t be surprised. For too long, administration after administration has failed this district while our teachers and coaches have faced cut after cut after cut. Make no mistake, we have GREAT teachers. We have GREAT coaches. We have passionate and talented people in every corner striving to make this place the best that it can be. When they try to make their case for support, they are exposed to hostile work environments, with no responsiveness to the needs of those actually trying to help our kids, and worse… retaliation. Our teachers can’t always speak for fear of reprisal.

That should never happen but by now we all know that it does, and it has been for a while. Story after story have been told of hostile actions towards not just football coaches, but other sports, teachers, and even spouses. That is unacceptable. The Board not only can speak, it must. KRS 156.557 demands that School Boards review the performance of the superintendents and central offices, and it does not say once a year in a four-year cycle. Many places do it throughout the year in order to maintain a voice for the community in how things are done. They do one or two year contracts for their superintendents at most because (wait for it), they want their voice through the evaluation process to mean something. Where is our voice?

When do we get to be heard about a toxic culture, a systemic breakdown, and the destruction of community relationships?

The lack of respect for the parents and the boosters is made all the worse for the taxpayers who have seen tax increase over tax increase… more than 97% of the rest of the districts in Kentucky, and an increasing share of it redirected away from the actual development of our kids. Businesses like Caldwell Stone, in its third generation working with the Danville Schools going back deep into the 20th century, cannot be expected to endorse this unilateral destruction of our
values like rocks in a quarry. Weldquip cannot be expected to give their time, equipment, and money to a cause that simply wants to see it go up in smoke.

Patrick McClure’s law firm declares emphatically that “this injustice will not stand”. We, and many other parents, boosters, and taxpayers demand a hearing to discuss how these processes are conducted, and how they will be handled in the future, as provided for in KRS 160.290. That is absolutely something the Board can and must do. We demand that SBDM conduct a review of the process by which we will (maybe) hear about this so-called new direction, as is mandated by KRS 160.345. We as the citizens of your district demand you conduct the hearing according to your own policy 10.2 under the heading “Citizen Suggestions and Complaints”. We demand our our rights of the first 3 sections of Kentucky’s own constitution adopted here in Danville, including the prohibition against the arbitrary actions or powers of our governing bodies or administrators. We beg of you to no longer let teachers be afraid to speak in a system where we are supposed to be teaching our children to make their voices heard.

This is a crisis of toxic culture for those relationships that have bound this District for a century. Each of us signed here today run deep with Admiral blood. Our spouses, who are mostly transplants, have stood on that hill, and watched those July practices; they have stood with people waiting at the finish line of the “Turkey Run”, and they have seen better crowds at a youth football game on Cowan St. or soccer game at Millennium Park than some high schools get for playoff games.

They have also been moved to tears of love by the difference our programs make in the growth of young men and women into citizens, and friends.

So here we sit, having understandably watched Bob Allen and Hardee’s; Papa John’s and others who have already said enough! We are not going to continue to fund an administration that gives no concern to the will of the people, let alone the donors, but asks and asks and asks for money to support a “direction” that we not only don’t understand, but were never even told existed. The current regime doesn’t seem to see the contrast in their recent unresponsiveness, and our failures to our children, when exposed to the light of history and traditions of the district. They do not recognize that when our past boards and administration were always listening to the best and brightest ideas, we were not only winning championships in football, track, cross country, or in golf, swimming, or band; but we were also putting up the highest test scores in the state, winning Odyssey of the Mind and Forensic medals, and being named a National School of Excellence for our AP programs and SAT/ACT scores. When we all worked together the Danville Independent Schools were the envy of every school district and every athletic program in the Commonwealth.

Our ship is sinking, and thus far neither the administration nor the Board has made any effort to throw us a rope. We have tried to hold back the tide of some of our kindest donors. But when day after day no one is willing to say we’re sorry, we’re going to do better, or just offer us insight into the PROCESS, it is hard to expect businesses to want to participate where they are clearly not respected. For the Board or SBDM to say that they do not have the ability to address processes and systems that bind them to this community is rubbish. In fact, they have an obligation to do just that. They have a trust endowed by the voters to promote community relationships, not to ignore them. They have a fiduciary duty to ensure that our money is spent for the will of the people who give it by taxes, by purchasing tickets, or by giving of their time,
energy, and financial support. They do not work for one person on a four-year contract. That employee works for the Board, and the people, just like anyone else from part time employees and substitutes to instructional assistant to the head of a department. Sadly, but proudly, in our minds and our collective institutional memory we come to you now fighting for the very soul, and ultimately the long-term viability, of the Danville Independent School District.

However, we who sign today are Admirals to the core. We remain committed to what that anchor and that rope stand for. For now, we are still willing to wait and see to determine our level of financial support. If the district can show us that it understands our position, and that it has a direction that it is willing to share in the plain light of day, a direction that is well conceived and properly vetted, we will work to regain those we have lost. It is beyond dispute each and every one of those businesspeople love this place just as much as we do.

At present, all we see is a system of cutting everything we support, while asking us to pay for something for which we, and apparently even the board itself, are totally in the dark. That is not how you treat people, it is not how you do business, and it’s not how you honor your sacred trust to your voters, your taxpayers, and your children. Perhaps we should ask for an independent audit of how not only the school funds but also the school’s accounting of booster funds, volunteers, and time actually spent in the trenches are treated.

While various businesses that sponsor directly and/or through the Champions Club are able to positively affect a budget, the contributions that don’t show up on a balance sheet are no less crucial. Sometimes they mean even more. You are hearing those cries as well; please hear all of our voices. We want to be a part of the process, when there is one. But our financial and other commitments, and our success, will be dependent on how you respond to this community. We are still Admirals, that can never be taken away from us, but we will all be waiting to see YOUR commitment that our Board, our administration, and our SBDMs are not just hearing, but also listening and caring and doing something about the place where we now find ourselves, and the way it is affecting everyone who loves this place so much.

We still proudly say to you,

Patrick McClure- McClure, McClure, & Bailey, presenting sponsor Hall of Fame
Bill Ruth-Ruth & Shearer, CPA, Hall of Fame inductee
Clay Albright- Caldwell Stone, President Danville Youth Football,
Dr. John S. Jackson, M.D., Hall of Fame inductee
Bill and Jim Critchfield – Critchfield and Critchfield CPAs, Hall of Fame inductees Mark Dexter- Dexter Real Estate & Insurance
Robbie Wilson- Weldquip
Melanie Clark Thornberry- Clark Law Office
Bethany Rogers and Colin Rogers- Hall of Fame inductees
Chester Ford- Hall of Fame Inductee
Stuart Critchfield- founder Danville Youth Football
Alex and Ann Yager McCrosky- Harvey’s, Where Friends Gather