The education board met in regular session, on Monday, at Prestonsburg High School.
Supt. Fanning noted that he typically was not one to "write many letters to the editor," but said that he felt "compelled" to respond to McGuire's article, as well as to a statement issued on July 7 by a Floyd County grand jury in which they found "the administrators of the Floyd County School System, remiss in their duties and efforts to adequately document and maintain records ... and, subsequently, protect the safety and well-being of the children" in their charge, specifically, those children involved in a lawsuit against a former May Valley Elementary teacher's aide who has been charged, and now indicted, with nine counts of criminal abuse against May Valley Elementary students.
In his statement, Fanning said that he had been in contact with the Commonwealth Attorney's office and that he had issued a request to that office to provide him with "as many specifics as possible" in regard to the recent indictment.
Fanning noted that he had appeared in court in regard to the criminal abuse case and that he "told the truth as I knew it." He further noted that he felt that suspicion had been cast upon many of the board's employees by way of association, namely, that they have now, in essence, had allegations brought against them in a broad, encompassing manner simply because of their association with the school system as board employees, "even if they had nothing to do with any of it."
Fanning said that his hopes, through communication with the commonwealth attorney's office and by conducting an in-house investigation, would be to "provide more details for the public" as well as for board employees.
Board chair Jeff Stumbo proposed a motion to his fellow board members that would set in place a policy by which, in the future, allegations made against the board would immediately require that the superintendent confer with the board attorney in order to draft an immediate public response in regard to the allegations.
In response, McGuire said that "this is exactly representative of what I would expect of the Floyd County school system. Children complained and there was no investigation. But the system is being criticized, so now they want an investigation. Five years later, we want an investigation ... It seems the school board is more interested in protecting itself than in protecting children."
McGuire, in further response to what he perceived as the board's attempt to "protect its good name," read, in entirety, the statement issued on July 7 by the grand jury.
Board member Sherry Robinson, who became obviously emotional near the end of her comments, said that she felt that McGuire's article was "misleading" to the general public. For one, Robinson said that McGuire's statement that "the board of education paid out over $750,000" to settle a lawsuit resulting from the May Valley case, led the general public to believe that "this is why our budget is short."
"The board did not pay out $750,000, the insurance company did," Robinson said.
Further, Robinson said, "I make all my decisions based on what's best for children in this county."
Echoing Robinson's sentiments, board member Dr. Chandra Varia said, "I took an oath that every child would be equal in my heart, that every school would be equal ... Mickey, you should not blame the whole district."
Varia also pointed out that the named children were still enrolled at May Valley Elementary, despite the alleged abuse. "The kids are still in the school. If the parents do not respect, or have confidence, in the teachers, then why are the kids still there?" she asked.
McGuire noted that he could not say that the superintendent, or any other administrator, had been remiss in their duties, primarily, he said, because "no investigation was ever ordered."
"The board never took action," he said. "No action, we just said, 'Let the board attorney do it.'"
"In court," McGuire continued, "the first thing a judge does when a child makes a complaint or an allegation of child abuse occurs, is to take immediate action (to protect the child). We didn't do that. Later, in court, we may find out that the allegations are unfounded, but we move to protect the child when the allegations are made ... We were wrong to take the road to protect ourselves."
In his statement, Fanning responded to McGuire's comments in regard to board employees participating in an alleged "cover-up" of the details in regard to the May Valley incident by saying that the allegations "should be addressed to the Office of Educational Accountability, the Education Commissioner, Attorney General or the Professional Education Standards Board" if the allegations are "directed toward employees and/or board actions/inactions."
Additionally, in response to McGuire's comments regarding allegations of "fear of retaliation" felt by board employees that could be imposed upon them by those in supervisory positions, Fanning said, "Maybe there are those who are fearful of whatever type of retribution is being referenced, but I've found several employees and parents who have plenty of fortitude to speak up on issues to councils, principals, superintendent, school board and governing agencies. There's a great deal of caring and service to children's education from these employees."