Mount Vernon News
 
 

By Mount Vernon News
March 8, 2012 10:35 am EST

 

MOUNT VERNON — Community members continue to pour out support for Knox County Career Center’s engineering drafting instructor Steve Jefferson as he remains on paid administrative leave.

In addition to letters and emails to the News, more than 200 posts on various websites reflect the frustration and outrage being experienced by citizens concerned about the engineering drafting program and Jefferson. There is an online petition demanding that the KCCC board “Stop the harassment of Steve Jefferson and return him to full employment” and numerous individuals are calling for the dismissal of Superintendent Bernie Pachmayer and Director Robert Kirk; some have challenged the school board members to resign.

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“We can no longer let the board rubber stamp a personal agenda of the school superintendent,” wrote retired KCCC administrator Robb Houck. “She works for us, the taxpayers, and she should answer to us. Or be prepared to be let go.”

Community members, business leaders, students, former students, parents and former KCCC staff are asking KCCC administrators to make public the threat they claim Jefferson had made in open session. They also want to know who was involved in the decision to place Jefferson on administrative leave, when that decision was made and why the administration waited until classes were in session before acting on that decision.

The MVPD is still investigating what official documents call “menacing” by Jefferson, with the listed victim being Kirk.

“Ongoing investigation” was Pachmayer’s response when the News asked several questions regarding to the alleged threats and the decision to remove Jefferson from the classroom. She did not answer who was teaching the class but did confirm the substitute was certified to teach it.

The controversy had its beginnings in November when attendees at the school board meeting protested the board’s decision to terminate the engineering drafting program due to “lack of student interest.” Several individuals, including parents, students and industry professionals at the meeting pleaded with the board to reconsider its decision. Board president Richard McLarnan and Superintendent Bernie Pachmayer responded to a few of the individuals, then refused to entertain any further comments from the floor.

The impasse continued at the December board meeting — atypically held at 10:30 a.m. – when Pachmayer and McLarnan refused to let Jefferson and others speak in open session even though they had submitted written requests to do so.

January’s board meeting was similar, with community and business leaders in attendance to support the engineering drafting program. Only one was allowed to talk to the board.

Jefferson was finally permitted to address the board at the meeting held Thursday, Feb. 23. He said he wanted to remedy some wrong impressions and correct some misinformation — which others have characterized as negative and often untrue — previously disseminated to the board about the engineering drafting program in general and about the character and actions of Jefferson himself in particular.

On Friday, Feb. 24, Jefferson, in front of students, was asked to leave his classroom, was placed on administrative leave and escorted from the building by Mount Vernon city police officers. The reason, Superintendent Pachmayer told the News on Monday, Feb. 27, was that board members were “quite fearful” of Jefferson and asked to be escorted to their vehicles after the meeting.

Board members with whom the News spoke said they did not ask for an escort.


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