My JCPS Board Member is James Craig. I voted for him four years ago, and I encouraged others to, as well. I started Louisville’s first and most notorious pro public education, anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-privatizer advocacy group, Dear JCPS in 2015, so, as you can imagine, a lot of people follow my guidance when it comes to who to vote for.
He seemed like an okay enough bloke. He’s a local defense attorney, who seems to understand cause and effect and speaks progressively enough that I figured, “surely he’ll vote right.” Plus, he had teachers’ union backing (back when their endorsement still meant something). There was no reason to think that he wasn’t going to win, and I saw no reason to go against him.
Fast forward to last January, when I tagged him in a post under an alternative Facebook account I was forced to use, due to my primary account always being on lockdown. Using the alias Nikki Bidness, I made an observation that he had voted against all three Black board members when it came to following CDC guidance. But it was even funnier, because he blocked my primary account, which I wasn’t even using at the time.
But this wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last time James blocked or ignored me.
Here’s a text message I sent to him in December of 2020, along with an email I sent to the entire board. He assured me then, that he not only agreed with one of my recommendations, but he would look into the others.
When the painfully delayed student assignment plan finally made it onto the board’s agenda, there was outcry from the Highlands families (an eccentric pocket of wealthy liberals living in close proximity to Downtown Louisville) who were upset their littles would have to travel outside of their neighborhoods to attend their favorite schools, so guess what. Changes were made. The proposal was tweaked. Just like that.
Black and brown community members, and those who support them, marched in the streets. It wasn’t the only message, but addressing root cause issues certainly can’t be done if we’re not talking about equity in our public schools. There was an entire tax increase that needed our community’s attention and support. But instead of considering the multi-layered and ongoing protests and objections from grassroots groups and impacted community members, we were ignored. When we objected to being ignored, we were thrown under the bus.
When I did an open records request to try to learn more about the allegations of racial discrimination in the district’s maintenance department, I was once again dragged through social media by my own board member.
A lawyer, of all people, should know that accessing public records is crucial to transparency that goes along with holding board members and district leaders accountable. When elected leaders object to due process, it really begs the question, “What are they trying to hide?”
Then there was the time I had to dip into my own pockets to purchase “VOTE YES” yard signs to counter the “No Tax Hike” petitioners “VOTE NO” yard signs. Too much was at stake to assume “Support Public Schools” yard signs would convey the message that people needed to vote for the tax increase. We had, in fact, put together a scalable proposal and met with Dr. Pollio about our vision and strategies on more than one occasion. Our proposal was not accepted, but many of our strategies were in play, such as the formation of a 501(c)_ to organize the efforts. Since we supported the tax increase, we just wanted them to run an authentic campaign that would garner the support of the voting public, in case the petition was successful in garnering enough signatures. But we also felt that a counter campaign was important, and yard signs with a clear call to action were necessary. When I asked people to pay for their yard signs (I sold them for $20 so that I could donate one for every one that was purchased), he made a post discrediting my efforts and saying people didn’t need to pay for what they could get for free.
I countered with a question, will they say “VOTE YES” knowing the answer was no. I eventually was able to badger the district’s 501(c) to create yard signs that said “VOTE YES for JCPS,” and our team of volunteers ended up being the ones who distributed and put most of them in the ground.
A coalition I was in had been trying to run a “pro public education” pledge drive, to try to counter the No Tax Hike group as “anti public education.” We were already building momentum when not once, but twice, district leaders choked the wind out of our sails and told us to stop. We even took our complaints to Dr. Pollio.
I will have to check my notes to see if I can remember why James blocked me on Twitter, but it just adds to the list of growing concerns that I tried to bring to his attention, which were met with hostility, disrespect and who knows what else?
I’m a mother, a taxpayer, and a voter in his district. And I not only have valid concerns, but I also bring valuable feedback, suggestions and good ideas from others in the district who face retribution or retaliation when they speak up, as my teacher friend, Tiffany Dunn, will attest. Did James ever bother to consider that THAT’s the reason I do so many open records requests? I didn’t think so.