The Jackson County Board of Education sanctioned one of its members at a special called meeting Wednesday evening.
Board member Charles West was given a one-year ban from the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology (EPCOT), which includes normal school hours and all after school activities.
West will also be required to notify County Schools Superintendent Kevin Dukes of the desire to visit any other Jackson County School System campus during normal school hours. Dukes must approve any visit to these campuses.
A complaint was made by EPCOT Interim Director Shane Small on Dec. 19, 2019 after West visited the campus.
The complaint said West visited the first-year masonry instructor at EPCOT looking to get re-certified and wanting information on a proficiency exam. An extended conversation led to the instructor saying the Masonry program was changing to Building Construction. T
he complaint said that “infuriated” West and the instructor felt paranoid about talking anymore to West, fearing something he would say would jeopardize his employment. The complaint also said that West visited the other two first-year instructors inquiring about their proficiency test and if they knew Brian Upton’s phone number. Upton is a state department career and technical employee.
West said when he visited the masonry shop at EPCOT, the door was unlocked. He said the door is always supposed to be locked. West said he caught the instructor decorating a mailbox, and he said students were “moping around.” He said some looked like they had nothing to do and one looked like he had never had a brick laying lesson. West taught masonry at EPCOT for 32 years before he retired.
“I put my heart and soul into the tech school,” said West. “I believe in it and I think a lot of students can benefit from it.”
West said his sanctions have political motives behind them.
“It was political because [Dukes] wants me off the board because I ask him questions,” said West. “I understand that our board is scared to death of the superintendent, and he probably told them they had to sanction me.”
West questioned the hiring of the masonry instructor in June, saying he was only hired because he was related to Dukes’ assistant. West said he had no experience in brick laying.
“He questioned me about a teacher being certified,” Dukes said. “Once he didn’t get the answer he wanted, he showed up at the State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey’s office. A few days later, he called the person over career tech at the State Department of Education. Then he went to that individual’s classroom and started questioning him, which in my opinion, is intimidating, threatening, harassing and bullying using his position as a board member. I appreciate the other four board members for handling the situation the way they did.”
Small was not on campus at the time of West’s visit.
“If the principal had been there, I wouldn’t have been in anybody’s class,” said West.
“If he would’ve asked permission to be at the tech school, he would’ve known if Mr. Small had been there or not,” said Dukes.
West said the board does not want him around the schools because he sees and hears too much.
“The only people I’m disrupting are the ones that won’t do their jobs and are not doing their jobs,” said West.
West referenced Jackson County School Board Policy section 2.25 that reads, “Members of the Jackson County Board of Education are encouraged…to attend schools.”
In October 2017, West was given a letter saying he would need go through Dukes to schedule any future visits to county schools and the central office.
“I’m thankful that our board members are disciplining their own and making sure that they’re all acting the right way,” said Dukes. “I’m thankful that we have a shared vision of where we want the school system to go.”