Fayette school board member should be censured, removed

By Ed McCall

hen I first read Fayette County Board of Education member Leon Ivey’s threats in The Register-Herald on Feb. 11, my jaw dropped and my mouth gaped open. I had just sat down to breakfast before heading to Meadow Bridge High School, where I am serving as the principal. I read it again to myself to make sure I had read it correctly. Then I read it aloud to my wife, followed with this exasperated question, “Can you believe he said that? What was he thinking?”

After several days of reflection and discussion of his inflammatory remarks with colleagues and my superintendent who merely dismissed his remarks as “just something someone else said” (No doubt she has grown a thicker layer of skin over these past months listening to the criticism, some just and some not, over the state of Fayette County schools), I cannot remain silent in the face of such an abhorrent outburst.

I regret having to repeat such vitriol with the fear that doing so only lends his inappropriate words any credence at all: “They (meaning the state board of education members) still control our students’ fate,” said Ivey. “If they tinker with our CEFP (comprehensive plan) again and if a bond fails because of it, there should be a call for blood in every community across the county.” A call to blood? “You cannot be serious!” John McEnroe would ask incredulously.

Only weeks before, I sat before this very same board member and listened as he pontificated to a young lady who had made threats and violent acts against other students in my school about how wrong it was for her to threaten the safety of other students and that it would not be tolerated. She was expelled for the remainder of the school year. Pot calling the kettle black? What is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander? At least not in this case. It appears that the state code of behavior to which we must hold students and teachers accountable does not apply to board of education members.

Let me get back to one of my original questions. “What was he thinking?” On the surface, it appears quite clear that Mr. Ivey advocates the spilling of blood (that of the state board members) if he does not get his way with the bond proposal that is sure to come forward soon. On closer observation, it is also clear that Mr. Ivey is a practitioner of the very vices that he pretends to detest when exhibited by Fayette County children … bullying and intimidation in order to get his way.

I might better explain Mr. Ivey’s death threats this way: He wasn’t thinking when he said those words! He was just overcome with emotion and the frustration that must come with being held accountable for managing collapsing school facilities. If those two explanations aren’t more viable, they certainly are nearly as condemning. As an elected official charged with decision-making and grave responsibilities for student safety and facility upkeep and building proposals, he is supposed to think! He is supposed to act out of fairness and to do what is just and best for all students and parents and citizens of Fayette County. Calling them to violence is none of those things. And doing so during these tough and tension-filled times reveals a flaw in his ability to lead and make sound, sane judgments concerning the future of Fayette students and communities that should be questioned by every citizen in every community in Fayette County.

Finally, Mr. Ivey is a spokesman for all educators in Fayette County. He should be a role model for those whom he leads and those whom he represents, but especially to those he is called to serve, the students. His actions speak very loudly that he is failing miserably on this count.

If Mr. Ivey cannot see his own missteps and the need for his own resignation, then those with the power (state BOE and fellow county BOE members) to censure and remove him from his position on the board should do it for him.

 Ed McCall is principal at Meadow Bridge High School.