The NAACP, joined by representatives of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, Human Rights Commission and others, blasted Fayette County Public Schools for inequities between minorities and other students at a news conference before Monday night's school board meeting.
Afterward, more than a dozen people went before the board to voice concerns and ask questions during the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment.
During the news conference, Lexington-Fayette NAACP president William Saunders questioned the district's "commitment to improving the educational culture of schools that serve a large portion of minority students."
He said the NAACP was concerned that a position focused on minority staff recruitment and retention remained vacant for almost two years, that Section 7 money "is not being distributed to the neediest schools" and that "current contracting with minority-owned businesses (is) almost nothing."
Section 7 funding is surplus money related to staffing.
"We must act now to make sure our next superintendent is up to the challenge," Saunders said at the news conference, which was held on the steps of the central office.
Saunders was flanked by supporters holding signs with messages such as "Stop the racial gap," "Where's the transparency?" and "Who exactly is representing our kids?"
Saunders said minority students' test scores and suspension rates have not improved in five years, and he questioned the district's "capabilities in addressing the equity issues outlined in the Equity Scorecard."
"They appear to be providing lip service," he said.
Board chairman John Price said after the meeting that "we take these things very seriously." He pointed out that Fayette County was one of the only districts in the state with an equity scorecard and equity council.
"Obviously, we have not hidden our heads in the sand," Price said. "We are very disappointed that we are not making the progress that we'd like to see. We're trying to figure out how we can allocate funds more equitably."
He said he had tried to arrange a meeting with the NAACP.
Many of the people who addressed the school board during its meeting echoed the concerns voiced by Saunders.
"What is the plan to improve the culture of the schools for students and staff of color?" asked Adrian Wallace.
Michael Winkler told the board that equity issues needed to be the top priority in the superintendent search and that the next superintendent needed experience in improving minority students' test scores in an urban setting.
"Not just someone who comes in with glittering generalities," he said. "We need to parse the backgrounds of these candidates so that any issues are well known."
Price asked that one woman who had addressed the board about equity issues be removed from the auditorium because she continued to speak out and make loud comments during the meeting. The woman left voluntarily.
Later, a small crowd in the foyer took up the chant "Black lives matter" before the doors to the auditorium were closed to block the sound.
Saunders said at the news conference that the NAACP had filed an open records request last week but had not received satisfactory answers.
Several of their questions concerned the associate director of minority recruitment and retention, a position that was vacant until Monday, when the district announced it would be filled by Darryl Thompson, who previously was the district's economic development manager.
Saunders called on the district to develop policies to ensure that Section 7 funding was being allocated as the law requires and to increase contracts with minority businesses, which now account for less than 1 percent of the district's contracts.
"We demand action and, most importantly, visible results," he said.