A Radcliff community member currently running for Hardin County Schools Board of Education in Division 1 has responded to criticism and concerns from other community members primarily regarding his posts on social media.
John Flanagan is a resident of Radcliff, U.S. Army veteran and is involved in a few different organizations in the community including the Optimist Club of Radcliff and Radcliff Small Business Alliance.
Flanagan said he spends a lot of time on social media and finds himself reading things quickly and then sharing. He said he has a different sense of humor than other people.
One meme posted by Flanagan, has an image macro of Gene Wilder’s performance as Willy Wonka from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” with text that reads “Oh you went to North Hardin High School? / Please tell me about how thug you are.”
Flanagan said this meme was just meant as a joke and to invoke sarcasm and said he thinks people who call themselves “thugs” are “stupid.”
He said both of his children graduated from North Hardin and said while the school has struggled in the past, he believes the school has improved and doesn’t believe all North Hardin students are “thugs.”
Since then, Flanagan has received several comments on his posts and reposts on his campaign Facebook page.
Cathline Smith has been a resident of Radcliff between 29 and 30 years, and graduated from North Hardin in 2006 and then studied at Western Kentucky University.
Smith made a Facebook post after sending a message to Flanagan addressing the Willy Wonka meme. She said out of context, the meme made it hard to determine what Flanagan was trying to say.
She said North Hardin has had a rough stigma over the years where students have been stereotyped as “ghetto.” Overall, she said the people she saw and grew up with were not like that, and while everybody has a different experience, hers was positive.
“I’ve learned to accept people for who they are. I believe North Hardin breeds a special type of suited graduate,” Smith said.
Smith said the “thug” persona characterized in the Willy Wonka meme was disheartening to her, and said one cannot hold onto the stigma of the school that she said has been doing a good job.
“I’d rather someone start seeing North for the potential that it has other than just a number,” Smith said.
Another post Flanagan reposted and criticized by Facebook users was one of a woman with text containing the title “Know the warning signs of white supremacy,” and a list of seven points including “full time employment” and “literacy.”
Flanagan said this image was reposted on accident and thought it had said “white privilege,” and took down the post as soon as he could, and apologized.
Flanagan said the reason he’s running for the board of education is he believes the district is being “shortchanged.” He said the schools in north Hardin County have low rankings and seeks to change that in order to revitalize the community.
On Flanagan’s Facebook page, using data from SchoolDigger, a website that aggregates data from several sources and compare schools across the country and state but does not conduct research itself, states North Hardin is the lowest ranked Hardin County Schools high school in the state currently and has the second highest student and teacher counts.
Flanagan said he has no complaint with teachers, and they are doing they best they can with what they have. He said if parents care about their children, then they ought to be looking at the statistics to see where they are.
He also said he disagrees with certain spending and decisions to raise taxes made by the board, thinks there are too many educators in the command structure of the school system and wants to see more representation of the taxpayers.
In regard to the rankings, Smith said academically, while not typically No. 1, is a school doing well in the area that it’s in.
Smith said at the end of the day, it is just Facebook posts, and knows Flanagan does not take memes and posts very seriously, but said what matters is what happens at the polls.
Smith said she stopped paying attention with Flanagan’s posts after he issued his response and said the backlash toward him was getting personal.
“I feel like if you keep it civil then it gets your point across. There’s no point in like harassing a guy and throwing obscenities towards him. Obviously, if whether or not he learns from it, that’s his decision,” Smith said.
Flanagan said he asks those in the community to read his campaign page and the research he has conducted.