Richardson criticized, but doesn’t apologize for Facebook post
Teachers and parents criticized Woodford County Board of Education member Allison Richardson Monday for recent social media posts on her personal Facebook page, which they said showed a lack of empathy and understanding. Commenting on #BuyBlack Friday Starts Today, Richardson posted, “I’m officially going to have solid haters. I’m a small business owner and This is NOT okay! If you think it is … YOU are a racist. Plain and simple. BUY FROM ALL SMALL BUSINESSES!!! What the hell did I do bringing kids into this f***ed up world?” Public comments submitted via email for Monday’s board meeting suggested Richardson undergo extensive diversity training so she can learn about the people she represents, while others said she should consider resigning her seat on the board. “Ms. Richardson represents a culturally and economically diverse population,” parent Sarah McCoun wrote. “Her statements concerning the Black Lives Matter movement and Buy Black Friday demonstrate a lack of understanding and empathy for many of her constituents.” Parent and community activist Devine Carama said he was extremely hurt by Richardson’s social media posts. “This is the type of ignorance I’m so tired of dealing with, and further drives a wedge between people in the midst of social unrest and a polarizing election,” he wrote. Carama said what makes the posts worse is Richardson serves on the Woodford County Board of Education. “… Supporting black-owned businesses isn’t racist, but rather a method of equity because black-owned businesses are disproportionately denied business loans and lucrative locales …” said Carama, a Versailles resident and small business owner. He said Richardson should resign from the board immediately. Board member Sherri Springate said she was saddened and disappointed by Richardson’s social media posts. “I find the comments insensitive, hurtful and not aligned with the equality statement recently approved by this board,” she said. Vice Chair Dani Bradley said she shared her thoughts about the social media post with Richardson directly, and does not feel it’s the role of board members to judge one another at a meeting. “Board members,” she continued, “are accountable at the ballot box where the community has a chance to decide who they believe will be the best representative for them and our district.” Earlier, McCoun pointed out that the statement of racial equality unanimously approved by all five school board members in July included the language Black Lives Matters. Those three words were added to the equality statement at the request of longtime board member Ambrose Wilson IV, who reaffirmed his support for their inclusion on Monday. “Racism is alive today … unfortunately,” he said. He said the district has not done enough to address racism in its schools and described its minority hiring as abysmal. While not directly addressing the controversy surrounding her social media posts, Richardson, who like Wilson attended the meeting virtually, said she appreciated the comments made at Monday’s meeting and values everyone’s opinion. “And I’m glad that we got to have this meeting tonight to discuss these issues,” she added. Board Chair Debby Edelen said she does not condone and rejects Richardson’s post and the sentiments behind it – a feeling echoed by others in the community. Kristen Wilson, a guidance counselor at Woodford County High School, who has worked in the district for 16 years and graduated from WCHS, said she’s never felt so ashamed and disheartened by the lack of empathy and disrespect from a board member. “You have let us down time and time again,” Wilson wrote in her email. She said actions speak louder than words and what Richardson “put out for the world to see is a direct reflection of what is in your heart. If your Facebook posts are more important than the hearts of the students you serve then maybe this position is not for you.” Wilson said Richardson should take the energy she uses on social media to educate herself and the community on people’s differences and being sensitive to the needs of others. She said it’s hard to teach students to respect each other’s differences and get along when a person who helps to make decisions for them “continues to knock them down.” WCHS faculty member Amanda Best said she was appalled by the repetitive inappropriate behavior of Richardson, who in August 2019 apologized for any pain she may have inflicted on people in the Latino community for her social media post of a man wearing a sombrero with the words: Mexican Word of the Day – ice smelter. “Some people may say this is a personal social media page,” said Best, but “if a teacher posted something inappropriate on their own social media page they would be called into the principal’s office and reprimanded for such behavior … Why should a board member be held to different standards than teachers?” She suggested the school board may want to consider adopting a policy on the behavior of board members, which was echoed by parents Daniel and Karen Call. Connie Sutherland said Richardson has been under fire for posts on her personal Facebook page, but her comments do not have any input on her job as a school board member. “I know where her priorities are,” Sutherland wrote. “She is on the board to represent what is in the best interests of the children and the parents – not only in her district, but the county as a whole …” Cierra Pickens Spalding shared the concerns of other parents, describing Richardson’s social media post as “absolutely deplorable and unacceptable from a public servant …” She said Richardson no longer deserves to serve on the board of education. Quarantine worries Two members of the Woodford County High School faculty voiced concern about the number of staff in quarantine. Emily Bays, who wrote her email while in quarantine after her grandmother tested positive for the coronavirus, said stress levels are rising at WCHS with an increasing number of students and staff in quarantine. “Teachers in the building are being asked to cover extra classes due to the sub shortage, while quarantined students fall further behind,” she said. Best cited the number of faculty in quarantine as being a concerned for the entire staff. While acknowledging positivity rates may not be high in the schools, that’s less-meaningful if testing for the virus doesn’t occur, she said. Woodford County High School stopped in-person instruction after classes on Tuesday because of the increased number of staff in quarantine. In-person classes were scheduled to resume Monday.