Critical Race Theory clash at Lakota: Two board members say leadership could be affected

In January, Lakota Board of Education members looked on during a meeting as former school board president Kelley Casper (foreground) was sworn on to the board after winning the fall election for a second, consecutive term. On the right (facing front) is Darbi Boddy, who since joining the board has repeatedly clashed with Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller. Casper - and fellow member Julie Shaffer (far left) - say they are concerned such contentiousness may result in Miller wanting to leave the job. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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In January, Lakota Board of Education members looked on during a meeting as former school board president Kelley Casper (foreground) was sworn on to the board after winning the fall election for a second, consecutive term. On the right (facing front) is Darbi Boddy, who since joining the board has repeatedly clashed with Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller. Casper - and fellow member Julie Shaffer (far left) - say they are concerned such contentiousness may result in Miller wanting to leave the job. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Two Lakota school board members are concerned a highly public rift between a board colleague, who has repeatedly clashed with district leader Matt Miller, “could result in Lakota losing a superintendent.”

Lakota Board of Education member Kelley Casper told the Journal-News of her concerns over the ongoing clash between member Darbi Boddy and Miller over the topic of Critical Race Theory and other issues raised by Boddy.

Email records show accusations from Boddy against Miller for an alleged lack of response regarding her requests for information and Miller’s opinions on CRT.

ExploreExclusive: Documents reveal Critical Race Theory battle between Lakota leader and board member

The contentiousness has led some in the 17,000-student Lakota school community to start an online petition calling for board members to pass a resolution censuring Boddy.

ExplorePetition to censure Lakota school board member gains signatures

As of Wednesday afternoon the petition had about 800 signatures.

“The community has a right to circulate a petition if they choose,” said Casper, who last year served as president of the elected, five-member board overseeing Butler County’s largest school system.

“The board is designed to act as a governing body not as individual board members. Board members are not elected to have a personal agenda,” said Casper.

“The rest of the board has publicly stated their support of Mr. Miller. The repeated requests and personal attacks on Mr. Miller by Mrs. Boddy could result in Lakota losing a superintendent that has elevated Lakota to be recognized on a national level,” she said, referring to Miller and the district’s raised profile of some successful programs in recent years since his 2017 hiring.

“This recognition is a direct result of Mr. Miller’s innovative approach to education and has brought more opportunities to Lakota for our students,” said Casper, who declined to comment further.

Fellow board member Julie Shaffer echoed Casper in her concern Miller may want to leave the job, saying “I fear the continued unsubstantiated attacks on the superintendent could cause us to lose Mr. Miller despite what he has done to move the district forward.”

“An individual board member does not have the right to direct the superintendent, but instead we have power (as a board),” said Shaffer. “The majority of the board has spoken in support of Mr. Miller. I appreciate community members also showing their support of him, as indicated by this petition.”

Boddy responded to her board colleagues’ statements Wednesday, saying: “I believe one of the reasons I was elected was because people are sick and tired of getting statements from elected officials that don’t say anything.”

“Someone or some group created a petition and are circulating it. I’ve never said they don’t have the right to do that. I get plenty of input from the public that wholeheartedly supports not just what I’m doing but how I am going about it,” said Boddy.

Addressing Casper’s comments specifically, Boddy said: “If how Ms. Casper has described the role of a board member is how she sees her role, then so be it, but if she is trying to insinuate that I have done something or am doing something outside of my authority she needs to be more specific.”

“I’m sorry she chose to weigh in in such a manner when she could have seized the moment to say something meaningful and relevant to the questions around cCritical Race Theory,” she said.

Despite two days of repeated messages from the Journal-News seeking Lakota school members’ comments regarding whether they would sponsor or back a board resolution to censure Boddy, no members - including Casper and Shaffer - addressed those questions directly.

Members Lynda O’Connor and Isaac Adi provided no responses.

The online petition includes allegations against Boddy that she has verbally attacked Lakota Superintendent Miller on a variety of topics, mostly frequently regarding the issue of Critical Race Theory.

The petition is the work of a group — Stand For Lakota — created just days after Boddy was sworn on to the board in January after coming in with the second largest vote tally, among eight candidates, for three open board seats in the fall election.

Representatives of Stand For Lakota have declined to comment about their online petition urging board members propose a resolution to censure Boddy, which would not remove or limit her powers or freedom to speak, but would publicly criticize her should it be passed by a majority of the five members.

During Miller’s previously scheduled online community chat Wednesday he acknowledged, in general terms, supportive messages of his leadership but said he was not going to comment about any school board issues.

Hired with a three-year contract in 2017, the then-board gave Miller a new contract in December 2020, extending his employment to 2025.

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