It's the battle of the petitions 'to keep' or 'dismiss' Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Donald Shively
Photo of Paducah Tilghman High School property in Paducah, Kentucky
It’s the battle of the petitions on change.org. After the blackface Halloween photo of Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Donald Shively circulated on social media more than a week ago, a petition started calling for the ‘Immediate Removal of Superintendent Donald Shively and Elected Members of the Board.’ Now, there’s a petition ‘To Keep Dr. Donald Shively as Superintendent of Paducah Public Schools.”
The photo that was taken in 2002 pictured Shively in blackface, Paducah Tilghman shirt and a gold chain around his neck. The other person in the photo was a woman in blackface, Afro hairstyle, and a padded bottom. Since the photo’s release on social media, there has been an outcry from Paducah Public Schools parents, students, and the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP calling for the superintendent’s resignation.
There have been student walk-outs and parent protests demanding Shively be fired. Students of Paducah Tilghman High School had a meeting with Shively only days ago. Parents weren’t allowed in the meeting. No word on the content or mood of the meeting.
The local chapter of the NAACP met with Shively for several hours a few days ago. Their minds are made up...they want him gone along with members of the Board of Education.
As it stands, The ‘Immediate Removal’ petition has nearly 1,700 signatures. The ‘Keep Shively’ petition is getting closer to 1,000 signatures. What does all this mean for the school district? Time will tell.
The ‘To Keep’ petition states: Dr. Donald Shively has maintained the legacy and the Academic Excellence that the Paducah City Schools have accomplished over the years. Please sign our petition to keep Dr. Donald Shively as the Superintendent of the Paducah City School System. Your signature will be greatly appreciated. The students and the people of Paducah need the guidance that he is able to provide to allow our students in Paducah to compete as they move forward in their lives.
The “Get rid of’ states: A picture has surfaced of Superintendent Dr. Donald Shively and his ex wife Heather Knott Shively dressed in blackface displaying themselves lampooning African-Americans. It is unfitting that someone in his position or any learned member of our community display such racially insensitive actions towards the demographic of humans that he has been assigned to lead. We feel that immediate removal of Dr. Donald Shively and board members is the only appropriate measure to move forward and begin the healing process, this is a violation of EPSB standards of behavior that governs educators. These actions must be held accountable, the board has blatantly disregarded the voices of the community and we call for immediate removal of all seated members including Dr. Donald Shively.
Superintendent Shively has shared with students, parents, the school district, and the community just how sorry he is about his 2002 decision to dress in such a fashion. He said the photograph is terribly offensive. In an interview with another news service, Shively apologized and stated that he knows there’s a lot to be done to help the community heal.
In a statement, Shively wrote, “My goal is that this extensive process not only will help me to grow as a person and as a leader, but that it also will serve as a catalyst for improved understanding, sensitivity, and racial harmony in our community.”
Both sides are fighting for what they believe is right. No one is a winner here. We know the goal of both parties, it’s very clearly stated on the petitions.
This Sunday is a planned protest asking for Shively and the board members’ jobs. The protest is to take place in front of Paducah Tilghman High School at 1 pm. The organizer has been speaking with a group from Louisville regarding their participation in Sunday’s protest.
There’s much more to take away from this incident than a photo from a party almost two decades ago. Communities are hurting. The racial divide is as wide as a river and deep as an ocean. Keeping a dialogue open will help. The protest planned for Sunday is said to be a peaceful demonstration. Let’s hope so.