James McKenzie addressed the Jackson County Board of Education at its meeting Thursday night to discuss concerns with changes that have affected his classes.

McKenzie has been an instructor at the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology since 2008, and he attended EPCOT from 1987 to 1990. He has mentored eight national medalists since 2008. His class is targeted for employers seeking to hire trained electrical workers and said there are more jobs that students right now.

“EPCOT has and will always be a special place to me. Without this school, I could not stand before you today,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie wanted to address the board about changes that affected his class. In the 2018-2019 school year, the schedule was changed. He said the change made it difficult to have consistency teaching the class. He said students from different schools would come and go at different times throughout the day, even throughout the week. Three sessions a day meant the instructors spent less time with students than before. McKenzie said it was not conducive for educating students. He said that EPCOT is still on three sessions.

“I’m not here to cause division, I’m here attempting to bridge the gap between career tech and the academic world that continues to make all the decisions for career tech education. I am concerned that the same people that made the decisions for these schedules the last two years are now making decisions that will forever change the career tech school as we know it,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie said to his knowledge, no teacher from the tech school has been contacted or asked to contribute to the changes being projected.

“A reasonable person would think that career tech people would have a different understanding than someone that sees it from afar,” said McKenzie.

“We as career tech educators have a lot of knowledge about many careers and options for students in Jackson County. We have value and can make an impact working together with [the board of education] to help decide the future of career tech education in Jackson County,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie has a total of 18 students in his class.

Board of education member Charles West said that McKenzie made many good points.

“We need students [at EPCOT] more than we need a new tech school,” said West.

Superintendent Kevin Dukes said there is a great deal of thought put into every decision made about academics.

“Decisions are made between me and all the supervisors. We’ve all been principals, and we have been in schools. Based on our experience, we do what works best and what we think works best. We’ve made decisions where we step back and realize it wasn’t the right decision, but when we make a decision, we’re not making it just to make it. We make it because we feel it is going to improve our students’ opportunities,” said Dukes.

Newly appointed EPCOT Principal Jason Davidson said McKenzie’s concerns are valid.

“His comments are valid because these are things he sees at EPCOT every day,” said newly appointed EPCOT Principal Jason Davidson. “I can see that he is someone that values his craft and he takes his profession and job very seriously.”

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