There’s a new billboard on Park Avenue by Paducah Ford just before heading across the railroad overpass leading to Kentucky Oaks Mall. The billboard is calling for the termination of Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Shively.
The billboard shows the photo of Shively in blackface while attending a Halloween party in 2002. In addition to blackface, Shively is wearing a gold chain, gold teeth, a do-rag and a Paducah Tilghman football shirt. At the time the picture was taken, Shively was a teacher at PTHS.
The photograph first circulated on social media in mid-October. Parents, members of the community, and the Paducah/McCracken NAACP Chapter members were very offended by the racially-insensitive photo. In fact, the Paducah School Board members called it ‘shocking’ in a statement released on Friday, December 11.
Less than two months ago, the Board engaged in several closed meetings to discuss Shively's actions. Open meetings were held as well to address the concerns and feelings of the students, parents and members of the community. The virtual meetings were meant to create a meaningful dialogue about racial inequality and injustices and to voice opinions on the matter.
After an executive meeting this past Friday, the Board voted to request that Superintendent Shively take a 40 day unpaid leave of absence and said he must undergo diversity training.
Shively has apologized numerous times since the photo was released. He has asked for forgiveness and has said he realizes the hurt caused to so many. The Board and many others believe in his sincerity and willingness to work hard to make things right.
Some people said it wasn’t enough. On the Facebook page of Andiomo White, he said, “When you go to the mall or Walmart today, look over at the billboard by the Ford Dealership. 40 Days is not enough and we won’t stop.”
The sign said that it's paid for by All of Us or None Louisville in partnership with the Community Coalition to End Racial Insensitivity in Education. In the same post on White’s Facebook page one of the comments asked, ‘Shouldn’t it say paid for by the parents and citizens?’ The billboard cost this group $825 and was placed to get a reaction.
Additionally, one of White’s Facebook friends said they were going to ‘push’ the story. It appears a message was sent to Shaun King, a Brooklyn based writer/activist that focuses on civil and human rights, racial injustice, and other similar matters. He’s the co-founder of Real Justice PAC. King uses social media to promote social justice causes.
On one of the local television anchors Facebook posts, the community is weighing in on the situation. Some have said things like, 'this is embarrassing Paducah, let the legal system handle this matter.' In response to this post, one of the comments said, 'What's embarrassing is having someone in our school system like Shively continue to teach our kids.' Feelings are mixed on this issue and it doesn't look like the pressure will let up anytime soon.