The racially insensitive Halloween photo translates into 40 days of unpaid leave
The Paducah Public Schools Board of Education released a public statement Friday, December 11 regarding Dr. Donald Shively and his current state of employment. Before reading the document in its entirety, School Board Chair Dr. Carl Lebuhn said, “Obviously, we’ve been through a lot the last couple of months. I’m going to read a statement from the Board. It’s three pages long.”
Click here to read the statement in its entirety. Paducah Board of Education Statement concerning Dr. Donald Shively.
After an executive meeting on Friday, The Paducah Board of Education voted to request that Superintendent Shively take 40 days of unpaid leave to obtain education, training, and community involvement on racial inequality.
On October 20, 2020 a photo of Shively began circulating on social media that was offensive, inappropriate and shocking (the Boards word). The picture was taken of Shively and a female companion in blackface at a Halloween party two decades ago. Shively was wearing a Paducah Tilghman football jersey, do-rag, and a gold chain around his neck.
Members of the Board were told by Shively in 2019 that the photo existed, however, Dr. Lebuhn read in his statement that none of the board members saw the actual photo at the time. In the statement it said, “The board members had their first opportunity to see the photo simultaneously with the public and the internet community when it was posted on social media October 20, 2020.”
The motion for the leave of absence was made by vice chairman Dr. Felix Akojie and seconded by board member Mary Hunter Hancock. The remaining board members voted yes for the unpaid leave with the exception of Dr. James Hudson who abstained.
This meeting occurred one day after hearing renewed calls from the Paducah/McCracken County Chapter of the NAACP asking for Shively’s resignation. It has been seven weeks since the local NAACP chapter first requested his removal after seeing the blackface photo appear on social media.
On Thursday, president of the local NAACP chapter J.W. Cleary said in a statement, “Since October of this year, Paducah Public Schools has been embroiled in the blackface incident regarding Dr. Shively. The Paducah Board of Education has met several times under closed executive session and has not provided any updates in regard to their decision on this very serious measure matter.”
“While understanding the executive sessions are classified and closed to the public, we are still calling for the resignation of Dr. Shively. We see it as the only viable way the district, its students, and the community can move forward.” The resignation of Shively isn’t the only interest of Cleary’s. The NAACP outlined seven steps it would like to see the Board initiate. (The seven steps are at the bottom of the article).
Around the time of the released statement from Cleary, the board members had announced a special meeting in executive session set for 4 pm on Friday at the Paducah Innovation Hub.
The 40 days of unpaid leave will consist of 20 days to be taken during the current school year and the remaining 20 days to be taken the following school year or 2021-2022.
In the statement from the Board, Shively will remain in his current role, but the Board’s evaluation of Shively should ‘focus more closely on his progress on areas such as cultural and racial sensitivity, empathetic communication, keener recognition of implicit bias, and a deeper understanding of issues concerning minority groups.’
The 40 days of unpaid leave is for Dr. Shively to attend training sessions in these areas determined by the Board, the Kentucky Educators Association, local leaders, and others.
To further assure the community that the Board is working to address equity and diversity issues, a contract is proposed to engage the University of Kentucky’s Education and Civil Rights Initiative to come up with a plan for the Paducah Public School District.
The seven steps requested by the Paducah/McCracken County NAACP Chapter:
Conduct an independent cultural audit of its schools.
Provide annual mandatory implicit bias and racial sensitivity training.
Commit to diverse hiring at all levels.
Conduct an annual review of student practices that demonstrate equity in closing the achievement gap.
Commit to training diverse candidates for leadership positions.
Employ a district diversity and inclusion officer to focus on recruiting minority candidates.
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