Kate Boreen made a convincing argument to the Big Horn County School District No. 1 board of trustees to consider allowing an FFA/ag program at Burlington Middle/High School during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 11.
Boreen said she was “intrigued” when she heard that Burlington did not have an ag program and was curious to know why.
“I was really surprised when I heard that there was no ag program,” said Boreen. “After all, it is an ag area, it seems like there would be an ag program in the school.”
She said she talked to various people about the situation and found that people had a misperception about what an ag or FFA program involves. In her presentation to the board, she attempted to clarify that and to convince them that an FFA/ag program would be beneficial for the students, the district and the community.
“I think one of the reasons people don’t know what an ag program is all about is because there hasn’t been an FFA program here for a long time,” said Boreen.
Boreen went on to explain that an ag program includes three elements: classroom time, a supervised ag experience (SAE) and FFA meetings and competitions.
“The SAE is what really sets the FFA apart from other programs,” she explained.
Boreen said there were 2,300 students enrolled in FFA in the state of Wyoming this year. According to national statistics she found that enrollment in FFA in the state of Wyoming has increased by 235 students since the year 2010. She learned that 1,300 of those 2,300 students attended the state FFA conference in Cheyenne this year.
“Over half the FFA students in the state attended the conference, which I think speaks really well for the popularity of the program,” she said. “Another thing I learned is that, nationally, 44 percent of members are female. I thought that was really interesting, too.”
In her initial inquiries to parents, she found that many people had a misperception that FFA is just a welding and livestock-judging program. She said what she found in her own research is that ag technology and science are a big part of today’s FFA programs.
Another misperception she found is that FFA is similar to a 4H program.
“That is totally not true,” she said. “The FFA is a formal ag program in the school where students can earn both high school and college credits, where 4H is a volunteer program run outside of the schools.”
She explained that to have an FFA chapter in the school, the school must have a formal ag ed program. She noted that it is not necessary for the school to have shop programs in order to have an FFA chapter.
She said she was particularly impressed with the fact that student FFA members are required to participate in an SAE. She liked the idea of students starting a business, or working in a business as a way to incorporate a “real life” experience into their education.
The board discussed her proposal briefly before going into a one-hour executive session. When they returned, they asked Boreen to submit a petition with at least 15 signatures by parents of Burlington students grades 7-12 indicating an interest in the program.
Since the program would require using school resources to hire an advisor/ag teacher accountant Richard Parker said something else would have to be discontinued to free up those resources.
Several board members said they saw the merit of her proposal but wanted to see how much interest on the part of students existed before committing to taking her proposal further.
In other matters, Parker presented a preliminary budget proposal.
The board approved funding any pre-school funding shortfall beyond the program’s grant funding for one year. Supt. Shon Hocker argued that the timing of the funding of the grant created an uncertainty for staff working in the program.
They also approved an increase in lunch prices by 5 cents and a decrease in breakfast prices of 15 cents for students and 10 cents for adults. The idea of decreasing the breakfast prices was to stimulate participation in the programs, which would have to be discontinued if participation does not increase.
The board approved a transfer of $250,000 from the General Fund to the Capital Construction Account.
Handbooks for the schools in the district were approved.
By Patti Carpenter