Former Nelson County School Board member says sports are reason for possible school merger

Former Nelson County School Board member says sports are reason for possible school merger
Published: Oct. 24, 2023 at 11:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There have been days of protests from Nelson County students and staff following the proposal of merging two high schools.

One school board member who just resigned said it’s all about beefing up sports. Last week, the Nelson County School Board voted 3-2 to explore the option of combining Thomas Nelson High School and Nelson County High School.

That decision led board member Damon Jackey to resign, citing secret meetings and lying to the community.

On Tuesday, the board officially accepted his resignation. People have been asking questions about the vote for a week, but school board members gave no explanation on Tuesday.

Nelson County school board members walked by students and parents holding signs on their way into the board meeting with only one thing on the agenda - accepting Jackey’s resignation.

Jackey received a standing ovation. The decision to accept his resignation was made quickly.

Last week, Jackey cited secret meetings between the three board members who voted for the merger and lies to the community as reasons for his resignation.

“What I started to see more and more of are things that I consider to be unethical behaviors,” Jackey said.

After days of protests, staff callouts, and school cancellations, the community is still looking for answers.

“Multiple emails,” parent Stephanie Johnson said. “Multiple texts. And nothing back.”

Jackey gave his guess.

“It’s all about having a high school that is big enough that has these larger sports bodies of student-athletes that they can pull from,” Jackey said.

Student-athletes like Lilly Miller, who plays softball and basketball at Thomas Nelson High School. Something the sophomore says she might not have done if the schools were combined.

“I feel like I would not have any opportunity, very little, if we combine the schools,” Miller said.

The only official reason school board members provided for the possible merger is for financial reasons.

Nelson County Superintendent Wes Bradley said the conversation is about how to increase equity and opportunity in their middle schools.

“I’m confident our board will continue to evaluate the options that put our students first,” Bradley said.

Jackey floated a different theory.

“It’s not about giving a better opportunity for students,” he said. “It’s not about making sure that Lilly can end up having a chance to be on softball or basketball. It’s about going back to one high school so you can have these big sports teams.”

If the schools do end up merging, some parents say they’ll look at moving their kids out of the district.