MOUNT VERNON — For the second month in a row, individuals have left a public meeting of the Knox County Career Center school board feeling disheartened and frustrated.
On Thursday, the meeting was held at 10:30 a.m. instead of the usual evening meeting time. Career Center teachers who wanted to attend the meeting had to ask for a substitute to cover their classrooms, and some businessmen used their lunch times in order to be present. None was allowed to speak in the open public session.
State sunshine laws require that members of the public be permitted to attend regular school board meetings. Although other area school boards do allow public participation at their meetings, the law does not require it. KCCC policy states: “Public participation shall be permitted at the discretion of the Superintendent.”
For community member Emily Hoar, who retired from KCCC with 26 years of service, Thursday’s rebuff was the second. She had asked, in writing as the board policy states, to be allowed to address the board at both the November and December regular meetings. The board on Thursday did invite Hoar to speak to them in executive session, but Hoar declined.
She told the News, “The board meetings are supposed to be at 7 at night. For a school that supposes it is so reliant on public opinion — and on this community — they are making it impossible for the community to come to the meetings, which may have been the intention in the first place. I was just going to be asking the board of education to come to the school and talk to the people who are affected by the decisions they make. I worked here under three superintendents. It used to be a positive environment. I recall some of the former board members who used to come around. They would talk to us and ask if we had any problems. This board doesn’t do that. I am amazed by this. No, I am alarmed at what’s going on.”
Linda Welsh is another community member who was not allowed to speak in open session Thursday. She was also denied a voice at November’s meeting.
“I had a whole speech written last time,” she said. “It was five minutes long; [the time limit imposed by board policy] I timed it. Today (Thursday) I had a list of questions I wanted to ask but I didn’t get to speak again today. ... I am a taxpayer. I just wondered when I can get my questions answered. Who do I ask? Who do I go to? I never get to speak. I’m frustrated. I’m very frustrated. It used to be a very good school. I want to know why I am not allowed to speak.”
Engineering drafting graduate Ryan Davis works at FT Precision in Fredericktown and has his own lawn and landscaping business. He was frustrated because he wanted to talk to the board about the value of the engineering drafting program the board voted to eliminate last month. He told the News he uses what he learned in the engineering drafting program “all the time” in the landscaping.
“I’ve designed several things over the course of this year,” Davis said, “and I wouldn’t even have had an idea on how to even format the drawings or read a scale or anything if it weren’t for what Mr. J[efferson] has taught me. Until today, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about this school. I loved it here.”