The Paintsville Independent Schools Board of Education barred a community member from speaking during its regular monthly meeting Monday, stating the man was not addressing action items on the board’s agenda and therefore did not have a reason to speak.
The man, Steve Belcher, has spoken at each board meeting for the past four months, citing concerns with the leadership of Superintendent David Gibson, who Belcher said “doesn’t belong” at the school district.
Board member Ken Fuller voiced his disapproval of Belcher speaking at the meeting at length, stating that Belcher had done “a lot of rambling,” during his previous statements to the board.
“Mr. Chairman, in all honesty and in fairness to this board and our school district, I just want a little memo that I am opposed to letting this individual address the board again,” Fuller said. “There’s an old adage, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,’ and I really consider that he’s fooled us fully twice. The first time he addressed the board, there was a lot of rambling and he made one point about some activities funds that occurred several years ago under a different superintendent, and Mr. Porter and Superintendent Gibson jumped on that immediately and I think they reconciled that, according to him.”
Fuller said the concerns with the activities funds, which Belcher brought up during a July meeting of the board, weren’t his main cause for disagreeing with Belcher speaking during the meeting, but that he was offended by Belcher’s statement that Gibson did not belong at the school district.
“He said something at the end that I found very offensive, in that he told Mr. Gibson, as our superintendent, that he did not belong here,” Fuller said. “I have two reasons, myself, that indicate that I think he does belong here. One of them is factual and the other is observational. The factual one is that he does belong here for no other reason than that this board hired him. He is our employee. He belongs here because of that.”
Fuller then cited his reasons which he called “observational,” including two annual evaluations that have been conducted on Gibson’s performance in the role of superintendent.
“Now, I don’t if anybody’s been observing, but we’ve done two annual evaluations on him, and he hasn’t been just ‘up here,’” Fuller said. “He’s been exemplary in every leadership category that we had to meet, and that doesn’t come lightly from our past history. I think that message needs to be proclaimed to three groups … the kind of support we have for our superintendent.”
The three groups Fuller referenced were what he called the district’s “tiger family ” — the board, students, teachers and coaches, the school’s community outside of Johnson County and the school’s alumni. Fuller’s last reason was Gibson’s adherence to a motto Fuller cited from the Paintsville High School football team.
“Our football team has a very appropriate motto, probably, for every sports team we have, ‘we, not me,’” Fuller said. “I think that’s appropriate for our superintendent also. He’s had the opportunity to be recognized locally as co-business man of the year by our chamber of commerce, he has helped our board get state recognition, he’s helped our school district become a, one of 12 ‘bright star’ out of 173 school districts, he has helped, nationally, our elementary school be a blue ribbon school. He’s gone to Washington, D.C. to address the state of education in Eastern Kentucky and what’s being done … I think we’ve got a touch of it tonight, and I do have something I want to share from The Paintsville Herald, and out of all those things, I’ve never once heard him say, ‘because I did, or I did,’ it’s always been about our students, about our teachers, about our staff and about our school.”
Fuller then referenced a Sept. 25 article covering the designation of the Paintsville Independent Schools district as a “Bright Spot,” in the state. Lastly, Fuller said that he did not think Belcher had followed the board’s guidelines for members of the public to speak at the board’s meetings, which board member Joe Porter said was a ‘moot point,’ because there was no item on the agenda for public comment.
“Awesome, I’ll come back next month,” Belcher said, before presenting a prepared statement which reiterated several points Belcher has brought to the board in the past, but also included indications that, as of 5 p.m. Monday, an email had been sent to the Office of Educational Accountability which listed Belcher’s chief complaints with Gibson.
“But, if I can just say one word, you can print this, and that way you all can’t hide it. But it’s coming out, and you want to question my loyalty,” Belcher continued. “I was actually gonna take it easy on you,” Belcher said, addressing Fuller. “You don’t even know what loyalty is if you’re swearing allegiance to him, so, welcome to the (expletive deleted) show, and this ain’t even remotely over, fellows, you’ll wish it was. Just remember that.”