MOUNT VERNON — Six individuals addressed the Knox County Career Center Board of Education at the tail end of its meeting on Thursday.
•Linda Welsh asked why student participation in Skills USA was not permitted this year. She spoke about the perceived bullying of students and staff by the administration and said it was not fair that engineering drafting students had to suffer the “roller coaster ride” caused by administrative actions.
•Jessica Miller shared emails her parents had received from Pachmayer following the February board meeting and the resulting administrative leave of engineering drafting instructor Steve Jefferson. Her parents questioned Pachmayer’s insinuation that low enrollment numbers in the program were due to actions by Jefferson, asked why Jefferson has not been allowed to speak at board meetings as he requested and wondered about the reason he was suspended for three days without pay for going out to recruit students.
Pachmayer’s response included a statement that she had arranged a meeting with the teacher from Fredericktown who teaches Project Lead the Way [an engineering program] and Jefferson. She said Jefferson “did not want to go in that direction.”
The News contacted Fredericktown PLTW teachers Robert Miller and Don DeMarco. DeMarco said he did not recall meeting with anyone from KCCC last year and Miller said he spoke briefly on the phone with Jefferson a number of years ago, but hasn’t met him face-to-face.
The email also referred to the “threats” Pachmayer said Jefferson made at the February board meeting.
“This email from Ms. Pachmayer broke my heart with bias and slander toward Mr. J.,” Miller said, “not to mention the untruths. Is this the kind of leadership we want for the Knox County Career Center?”
Asking the board to reconsider the elimination of the engineering drafting program and the non-renewal of Ann Johnson’s contract as early childhood education instructor, Miller said it is the board’s responsibility to make informed decisions in the best interests of the students, school staff and the community at large. She said recent actions are “due to a prejudice and the superintendent’s personal agenda.”
Miller pleaded, “Stop this reign of terror and the destruction of our Knox County Career Center.”
•Cosmetology program graduate and advisory board member Jessica Russell said her experience at KCCC was “wonderful and memorable” and said a large part of that was because of the Skills USA program. She asked the board to reconsider the school’s [non]involvement with that program.
Russell also talked about how important it is that students be prepared for the state cosmetology examination. [Apparently KCCC director Robert Kirk had stated that the instructors place too much emphasis on preparing students for the test and wanted them to change their approach.]
“The whole point of the program,” Russell said, “is not just to receive a certificate of completion from the cosmetology program, but to be licensed from the state. No industry professional will hire someone who is not licensed.”
Russell mentioned the “hostile work environment” caused by the way students and teachers are treated by the administration. She said the reputation of the school has been severely bruised. She challenged the board to ensure that the needs of the students are the first consideration, as they have in the past, and asked, “What school programs have been initiated out of the superintendent’s trips to Las Vegas, Florida and China at my — taxpayer — expense?” and “Where did the $11,000 go that was spent that there are no receipts for?”
“The teachers at the KCCC respect and take pride in their students,” concluded Russell. “Administrators should do the same.”
•Centerburg board member Jason Rogers challenged KCCC board president Richard McLarnan about a letter McLarnan wrote concerning representation on the KCCC board. [Referenced in the News on April 18.] Rogers questioned who really wrote the letter, which said, in part, that local school boards should contact their KCCC representative with any concerns. Rogers said, “representatives are supposed to be in contact with whom they represent, not the other way around.”
Rogers also spoke in favor of Skills USA. He said it is not “just a competition.” Last year, 292 students were involved in the program and $20,000 in scholarships were generated because of the program, according to Rogers.
•Staff association president Kelly Bell discussed how the KCCC staff association came to be affiliated with the Ohio Education Association and outlined OEA’s mission and vision.
“OEA is not a confrontational entity,” she said to the board, “no matter what you have been told. ... It is important that you understand that there are real issues and real problems at the career center. Do not blame the fact that OEA is our new representation and is the problem, or that I am a troublemaker. ... The local leadership of the association has not changed. ... We need to work together to put our students first. The community deserves that, the staff deserves that, and certainly the students deserve that.”
•Business and finance academy instructor Tammy Klein was the final speaker of the evening. Her topic was the importance of a positive working relationship between labor and management. She said management skills are a large part of her curriculum and the students learn that while discipline and guidance from managers are sometimes necessary, “humiliation in any form is not an option.” Klein mentioned many changes that have been made at the career center in her 24 years there and honored some of the former KCCC administrators who have served as positive role models: Howard Workman, Rick Hornick and Debbie Cisler.
“Through all of these changes in staff, policies and life in general,” Klein said, “our staff and management were able to work together. I feel that this is still possible today. ... I am worried we have forgotten our purpose. I am worried about morale on the part of both staff and students. I do believe, however, we can get back on track. We need to get back to the reason we are here. It’s not to see who has the most power or who is the strongest-willed or who can get the most supporters on their side — it’s for the students. ... Our school has had a wonderful history and reputation — let’s not let it slip through our fingers.”
The board listened to the speakers, but made no response. The meeting was then adjourned.
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