MOUNT VERNON — Nearly 100 community members, staff, parents, students and former students turned out for Thursday’s Knox County Career Center school board meeting, as did two police officers hired by the board at a cost of $35 an hour.
- President Richard McLarnan 740-625-5942
- Vice President Margie Bennett 740-392-8387
- Paula Barone 740-393-7367
- Ken Boeshart 740-599-6845
- Jody Goetzman 740-393-2168
- Ruby Miller 740-507-4409
- Mary Jean Theaker 419-529-3274
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knox county career center school board
No public participation was allowed during the 20 minute meeting, but plenty of people spoke up while the board was behind closed doors in an executive session which lasted over two hours.
Many individuals were there to show their support for engineering drafting instructor Steve Jefferson, telling of the positive effect he has had on their lives. One former student of Jefferson’s said, “If it wasn’t for Mr. J, I’d be in prison, or I’d be dead.”
Jefferson gave a tearful thank you to his supporters and encouraged them to keep fighting to fix what’s really broken at the career center.
“The only thing that has kept me going throughout all of this is the comments on webpages, comments on the streets. It’s made it a lot easier just to be around town,” Jefferson told his crowd of supporters. “I don’t want people in here to lose sight — I don’t want the community to lose sight — about what the real fight is about. I’m just a small piece of a very large broken puzzle. These kids here need our support — they need your support. The staff needs your support. We need to fix some things here. You stood up for me, now stand up for the school. It’s about the school now. Let’s clean up the mess that we’ve got here, but it’s going to take the show of force you’ve got here right now. You’ve got to keep hammering. Your most prized possession are your kids. ... I love you guys; thanks so much.”
The public was also at the meeting to protest the “toxic” atmosphere currently permeating the career center to the detriment of both students and staff.
Speaking on behalf of the staff, one individual said, “It is hard for us to come to work these days and walk in the hallways that we love. We want the bullying from Mr. Kirk to stop. We’re not used to this kind of work environment. ... We have to pull together for our kids.”
The individual also thanked the community members for coming to the meeting to show their support. “We need it,” the teacher said.
“I’ve never been so ashamed of higher ups in my life,” another person said.
Several people advocated the dismissal of Superintendent Bernie Pachmayer and Director Robert Kirk.
One man read from an evaluation completed by the board where Pachmayer was last employed, and asked why the KCCC board did not look more closely into her background before hiring her.
He read some of the comments included in the evaluation:
“Leadership, the superintendent creates an atmosphere of discord. Honesty, has not been honest during discussions with the board. Steadiness, reacts well during emergency situations. Cooperation, no comment. Innovation, keeps very current, almost to excess. Knowledgeable, this is seen as a problem due to the general chaos our school is in.”
Some in the audience were calling for the current school board to step down. Others suggested a restructuring of the board, which currently consists of three Mount Vernon City Schools board members, three members of the board for the Knox County Educational Service Center and one person from Richland County.
Jason Rogers, a member of the Centerburg Board of Education, and Warren Edstrom, East Knox school board member, said it would be better if each of the six schools that send students to the KCCC would have direct representation on the career center board. Rogers explained how that might work, and Edstrom said, “Our district is sending students here. Our district is sending money here. We deserve representation.”
When the board returned from executive session, McLarnan immediately called for a motion to adjourn.
One member in the audience loudly asked, “No apology to Steve [Jefferson] for the way he was treated?”
There was no response from the board.
During the business portion of the meeting, the board again considered a resolution to rescind a previous decision to give a $500 stipend to instructors who have 22 students enrolled in their labs at the end of the school year. The motion passed 5-2. Board members Ken Boeshart and Richard McLarnan voted no. When originally voted on, the motion failed with a 3-3 vote.
The board also voted on personnel contracts for the upcoming school year. Since at least two current instructors [Steve Jefferson and early childhood education instructor Ann Johnson] were not on the lists, board member Paula Barone asked if it were a final list. Superintendent Bernie Pachmayer said they had until the end of April to finalize employment contracts.
The board advanced social studies teacher Ben Cook on the salary schedule due to completion of requirements, approved a continuing contract for Tommi Merrin, hired Mitch McDaniel and Michael Durst as summer grounds crew members, and approved Dan Donegan for ABLE counseling on an as-needed basis.
The board also approved a list of field trips and routine fiscal actions and voted to switch its natural gas supplier.
Before the board went into executive session to discuss personnel, board member Margie Bennett said the board needs to develop a public participation policy. She said people should be able to sign up to speak the day of the meeting instead of 10 days in advance, as the current policy dictates.
Barone said it is important to encourage public participation. “This is the public we serve and we need to hear them,” she said. Board president McLarnan said the board would look into it.
No further action was taken.
Members of the KCCC board, and their contact information, are: President Richard McLarnan, 625-5942; Vice President Margie Bennett, 392-8387; Paula Barone, 393-7367; Ken Boeshart, 599-6845; Jody Goetzman, 393-2168; Ruby Miller, 507-4409; and Mary Jean Theaker, 419-529-3274.
Contact Pamela SchehlEmail
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