Graves County High School will have a new softball hitting and pitching facility and locker rooms, and the gymnasium will no longer have its existing naming rights contract because of actions the Graves County Board of Education took at a special meeting Thursday.
The facility and locker rooms are being built as the resolution to a federal Office of Civil Rights complaint, according to documentation board attorney Jesse Wright produced after The Mayfield Messenger filed a Kentucky Open Records request with him during Thursday's meeting.
The board passed the resolution with minimal discussion.
According to a copy of a Facilitated Resolution Between the Parties signed by complainant and softball parent Mark Spillman and Superintendent Kim Dublin, the district will construct a 38-by-70-foot building adjacent to the existing softball field designated to contain a hitting and pitching facility no later than Feb. 15, 2020. The district's financial obligation is not to exceed $9,700 based on an estimate the district received in November.
By Feb. 15, 2021, the district will construct an addition to the building containing lockers equivalent to the ones in the baseball facility, restroom and shower area for softball only and a separate ADA compliant unisex bathroom.
The agreement is contingent on a $10,000 payment by the Softball Booster Club, $14,000 from the Eagle Foundation, $8,000 from Graves County High School Athletics and $3,000 by Graves County Middle School as well as the school board's approval, which was received Thursday.
Dublin recommended the resolution at Thursday night's meeting, and board member Kenneth House made the motion to approve it, seconded by board member Julie Moffitt. It passed 5-0.
"The board participated in a mediation process about potential concerns that were raised about the facilities for the girls' softball," Wright said. "To address the concerns the board did participate in confidential mediation, and they did reach a resolution to address the potential issues."
The mediation included confidentiality requirements in place based on federal law, Wright said Thursday evening.
He declined to provide details of the agreement or name the person or organization with whom the board mediated until the Messenger filed its Kentucky Open Records Request for a copy of the resolution and correspondence leading up to it. Wright provided that information Friday afternoon.
The documentation included a letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia restating the complaint.
"The Complainant alleged that the District discriminated against individuals on the bases of disability and sex at the Graves County High School (the School)," the letter reads before detailing the allegations.
The allegations read, " 1. The District discriminates against females in its athletic program at the School in the provision of practice and competitive facilities and locker rooms; and, 2. The District discriminates against individuals on the basis of disability by failing to provide accessible restrooms at the softball field."
The letter also references the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.
"As a recipient of Federal financial assistance from the Department, the District is subject to these laws," the letter says.
The school district's response is also included in the documentation that Wright provided.
It notes that in spring 2017 the softball booster club wanted to work on getting funds to help the district build a softball hitting facility and presented a tentative plan for the building. The board approved the beginning of fundraising by the booster club July 20, 2017. The following season there was a coaching change, but the parents were still working on the plan. On Oct. 18, 2018, a group of parents came before the board and presented their plan with a dollar amount, and there was discussion about the need for heating and cooling and electricity, which the plan did not have, according to the school district. They were asked to include that in the plan, the district's response to the complaint says.
Parents met with some school board members Nov. 1 and before the entire board with a different proposal with smaller square footage Nov. 8.
"They were directed to find more funding," the school district's response says.
The letter from the Department of Education notes that prior to the Office of Civil Rights completing its investigation, Spillman and the school district expressed interest in resolving the complaint through mediation, that they were able to reach a resolution and that as a result no further action is warranted concerning the complaint, which is now considered closed.
Additionally, the board voted Thursday to terminate a naming rights agreement with CORE Physical Therapy, which had paid $10,000 for the rights last fall. CORE has a sign above the main entrance to the Eagles' Nest as well as stickers on the border of the flooring around the basketball court.
"I believe we do have grounds to terminate (the contract) if the board so chooses," Wright said, noting terms that allow the board to end the contract at any time.
"I still hate to lose him," House said, referring to CORE's owner, former GCHS student athlete Jeremy Woodward.
Following a motion by board member Kelly Whitaker to lay out terms of how to end it, the board unanimously voted to terminate the contract and refund all of CORE's money. The board also agreed to pay the cost for removing the outdoor sign and the stickers on the floor inside, noting that to do so likely would irreparably damage the stickers. Dublin estimated the cost for removing the outdoor sign at $1,000 to $1,200. The board will give CORE 30 days' notice about the contract termination and voted to have the signs removed within 30 days after that.
"That's probably going to be much less than the cost of litigation, isn't it?" House said.
Whitaker said she didn't want the sign removal to cost CORE anything and was hoping to salvage the relationship between CORE and the board as a result.
Board member Jim Wurth had suggested an alternative in which the board would refund the money less the cost of removing the outdoor sign, but the measure failed when voted on with only Holmes voting yes, with even Wurth changing his mind and voting no.
House said he had not been at a previous meeting when the board discussed the Eagles' Nest naming rights and signs, so Moffitt filled him in, saying CORE wanted signs over all four entrances to the gymnasium, visible from inside, along with possibly a sign on the wall and multiple signs on the football field. CORE also wanted the ability to renew the agreement for up to 30 years, she said.
"I don't want us to come out with a black eye to the public," House said. "Sometimes we have to do that, but he's got very demanding, I agree."
School maintenance staff noted that when the stickers are pulled off the floor, it will also pull the wax from the floor, requiring repairs. Those can be undertaken this summer during the period when the floors are generally stripped, resealed and polished, the board determined.
Additionally, the board heard a report from Marcum Engineering about three possible plans for a new heating and cooling system to replace the one at Farmington Elementary, which is roughly 36 years old. The system had a life expectancy of 20 years. The board decided to wait on making a decision until it had information about expected annual energy costs for each system, based on a review of other Graves County schools that have similar ones.
At the September meeting where the board of education approved asking for a tax hike of roughly 9 percent, triggering the potential of a voter referendum on that portion above 4 percent, the board had noted that besides the renovation of Lowes Elementary its other top need was replacing Farmington's HVAC system. District finance director Jimmilyn Hancock said at the time that a rough estimate for the replacement was $1.5 million. A petition committee gathered the required signatures to put the referendum on the ballot and withstood a legal challenge from the board. The tax hike is scheduled to be voted on in November's general election.