At left, Principal Tom Pyron listens to Senator Ken Winters
The clouds on this Friday morning hung low over the early morning light. A slight hint of winter was clawing its way into the day as I walked slowly into the Fulton County Area Technology Center.
Over 30 high level local and regional educators and almost the same number of students and a few media types were gathering in response to an invitation to a special briefing on what this technology center was doing.
The actual occasion was a Steering Committee Meeting of the Technology Center. In reality, it was a celebration that the Center still stood as an operating component of higher education in an educational landscape of mass budget cuts, loss of good staff, and an uncertain future for Kentucky education system.
The real background story was that one individual was being celebrated for his strength and undying faith in West Kentucky and the young adults who every day fight for a chance at life and a career beyond poverty.
This single tower of personal fortitude is named Tom Pyron. Because of him, the center still stands when two years ago, it was under bureaucratic attack. As is in most battles, the attack upon this far flung outpost of higher education was started over a simple issue.
The Center lost one staffer. The position was a part of the nursing program. When state education officials found out, they started to question how the Center could keep this program running when it no longer had a full staff to meet accreditation. Calls were made. Forms were issued and in a short time, the state had decided to close the nursing program.
If the nursing program was to be lost, than the entire future of the technology Center could very well be brought in question in Frankfort’s education hearings and budget reviews.
Beyond the simple fact of staff positions at risk was the future of the students who had invested their time and heart into pursuing a nursing program.
The Center also had programs in Health Science, information Technology, Office Technology, Automotive Technology, Machine Tool Technology and Carpentry. Each of these programs taught students in real world situations and problem solving. Houses were being built. Automotive engines rebuilt. Computer skills learned. Common to each of the core of these programs was the energy of the students to learn and excel in their new skills.
Yet, if the nursing program was to be lost, then it opened an opportunity by educational professionals in far off Frankfort to save money by closing the entire school.
Principal Tom Pyron at this point saddled up. He looked at all the good that the Center was doing for the students of region and decided to make a stand.
Tom made calls through out Kentucky. He lit a fire under administrators as to the regional importance of the Center and the nursing program. He forged a small army of private investors who put money into covering the lost staff position.
He was the spirit of goodness that called out the warning of lost opportunities for so many in far west Kentucky. People listened. Legislators and government official rethought the situation. They decided to reinvest with the Center.
A modern day Gary Cooper in High Noon, this single good man fought on the side of righteous. In his actions of standing tall, digging in his heels and facing the threat head on, he proved to many in West Kentucky how strength of character and righteousness of cause can still be important in this very loud, wired, digital world.
In Tom’s world, it is all about helping people find their way along the journey of life. A kind and understanding man, who lives in a complex world he has the strength of old fashioned honor and principles. After all, in his world, at the end of educational civilization in Kentucky, near the bluffs of the Mississippi River, the job is not done. Every day is a battle for the minds and spirits of young men and women to teach them the value of pride of job, pride of education and pride of self.
Along Highway 94, in Fulton County, where Fulton County High School shares a campus with the County Technology center, there are daily examples of students who excel in their studies.
Standing next to them, is also an example of how goodness still is important in our much harried world. That goodness of spirit is called Tom Pyron.