Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 14, 2013

Mayo milestones in the spotlight

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for park a fine occasion to recall influence of 'unique' Johnson County school

PAINTSVILLE — Bronelle Skaggs’ journey to the Mayo school was unconventional.

He was a teacher at Bryan Station High School in Lexington when he came home one night and told his wife he had resigned.

 With two children and a wife, his future seemed uncertain, but perhaps it was fate when less than two weeks later, then-Mayo Technical School director George Ramey called asking Skaggs to come to work in Paintsville.

 The rest, as they say, is history, and Skaggs’ imprint on the school has been long lasting — and it remains today.

 “If you stand in front of the Mayo Mansion and look to your right, there’s a church, and you look to the left, and there’s a school — those are three tremendous foundations of society,” Skaggs said during a ribbon cutting of the opening of the new Mayo park last week. “When you add family, that’s all you need.”

This year, Big Sandy Community and Technical College is celebrating three milestone anniversaries, including 75 years of service on the Mayo campus. The former Prestonsburg Community College campus is celebrating 50 years, and together, Big Sandy Community and Technical College is celebrating 10 years.

 Skaggs, who served as a regional administrator of the school’s Regional Organization for Providing Educational Services program until his retirement in 1992, told a story about a time when he went to borrow money for a construction project. They asked what collateral he had. His reply, “None.”

“I told the banker, ‘All I have is a good name in the community,’” he recalled.

 A few days later, he got a call from the bank and his loan application was approved.

“There has always been a symbolic relationship with the community and the school,” Skaggs continued. “As long as you work for the common good and benefit of people, you shall survive.”

Robert Conley echoed those words in his comments to those in attendance. As an emeritus board member for BSCTC, he said the Mayo school set the standard from its inception. Constructed in 1938, the school was formed to help train individuals in war communications during World War II.

“The Mayo school helped win World War II,” he said. Conley started serving on the board at Prestonsburg Community College in 1975. He’s been board member emeritus since 1991.

As a school, Mayo has been on the front lines of work-force transformations, from the various coal booms over the decades, to training those in support roles such as welders, diesel mechanics, electricians and truck drivers, and now, in fields such as health care, HVAC, information technology and many other programs.

“I think what has made the Mayo school unique is its service to not only the community, but the workforce needs of eastern Kentucky and beyond,” said Bobby McCool, vice president of institutional services at BSCTC. He also served as director for the Mayo school from 1999 to 2003. “Our commitment remains the same today.”

 Gary Lewis, who taught electronics on the Mayo campus for 33 years before retiring in 1999, said the school’s reach has been far beyond the hills of eastern Kentucky — it’s been worldwide.

“We were the first school of its kind, and we had many students early on from other countries, because this was really the only place that offered the training at an affordable price,” he said. “I think the school is very much unique today.”

During the reception after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Russell “Bill” Rucker, 92, of Van Lear, sat and reminisced about something unusual.

“Did you know the park used to be a softball field? There were quite a few good players that called this park home.”

Rucker, who began teaching heating and air conditioning at Mayo in 1947 (the same year he married his wife, Garnetta), remembers playing softball at the park in the 1940s. He recalls former school director George Ramey throwing a softball “faster than some people could throw a baseball.”


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