MOUNT VERNON — Juniors in the engineering drafting program at the Knox County Career are no longer in limbo — there will be a senior drafting class next school year, Superintendent Bernie Pachmayer told the News on Monday.
When the News reported in November that KCCC was considering whether to eliminate the engineering drafting program due to low enrollment, many junior engineering students and parents were upset and adrift, wondering how the juniors were going to finish the second year of a two-year program. Several parents told the News they were disappointed in the board’s decision. They said they were also disconcerted by what they called conflicting information from different KCCC administrators and felt they were getting the “run around.”
Pachmayer acknowledged the situation was confusing to some.
“That was true as we struggled to find out what we wanted to do in the situation,” she said. “We weren’t moving on this till March, and, quite frankly, it was the newspaper that caused us to move much quicker than we anticipated before we could actually come up with a plan of action. What happened was, we saw headlines and it said ‘Program gone’ and we’re going, ‘whoa,’ and that was in November. So, quite frankly, we think of these things the whole year, and that’s why March is normally our timeline that we tell people what we’re doing. Quite frankly the newspaper jumped ahead of us to November, so we’ve been running to try to come up with a feasible plan for everybody. So, were different messages getting out there? Absolutely.”
Hopefully that confusion has now abated. Pachmayer said all engineering drafting parents have been notified that the senior program will be offered next year. That means the juniors who are in the program this year will be able to take it as a senior next year. After that, she said, the program will be shut down for “a little bit” and revamped, as has been done with other programs in the past.
Members of the engineering drafting advisory board, business leaders and workers in the field, had also expressed concerns about the program, emphasizing that there is a continuing need in the community for graduates of “such a fundamental program.”
“We’re working with the industry leaders to determine the needs,” said Pachmayer. “We’re also working with Fredericktown’s Project Lead the Way and Centerburg’s robotics program to see if we can get a cohesive program that encompasses automation, robotics and machining. That is the direction we are going in. That way, we can address the needs of the county, but especially of the Project Lead the Way students and the students that are currently in a club of robotics. What we are going to do, we are going to tie that up and see if we can offer a program that would address those concepts — automation, robotics and machining.”
Pachmayer dispelled the rumors that an adult education engineering program is currently in the works. She said, “We’ve had the adult ed director with us in conversation with the industry because when we do create any program here [in the high school] we are always looking for the pathway to our adult education, as we do in auto tech, sports medicine and machining.”
Because the program will be for seniors only, the instructor position will now be a part-time rather than full-time position.
Certain parents on Monday said they are glad the program will continue next year, but still expressed reservations about who will be instructing the program.
“I definitely feel like they are not keeping us in the loop and I don’t believe they are being fair [to current instructor Steve Jefferson],” one parent said.
“I’m glad they are going to still have it,” said another parent. “I’m just worried about who the teacher will be. I personally don’t look at anything I hear as the end of anything because there’s been so many different things that have been said. It seems like you hear one thing one time and something else a couple of days later. I am happy they are going to still have it, though.”
Pachmayer said Jefferson will continue to teach engineering drafting next year if he agrees to a part-time contract. She said there is a contingency plan in place if Jefferson does not agree to a new contract, but did not specify what that contingency plan is.