The Ottumwa Courier

March 12, 2013

Patrons concerned over proposed E-B-F cuts

Future of FFA, building and trades programs in question

Courier correspondent

EDDYVILLE — Recent recommendations by Superintendent Dean Cook for a 25 percent budget cut to the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont agriculture program prompted strong emotions from district patrons.

Extra chairs had to be brought to accommodate the crowd that packed the agriculture room at the high school during the board’s recent meeting. They met under a ceiling full of banners showcasing the success of the Agri-Power FFA Chapter to discuss the future of the popular program.

Although it has not been approved yet, Cook has recommended that ag teacher Pat Power’s teaching contract be cut by 25 percent as well as his extended summer contract.

This cut would mean that he would only teach agriculture classes six of the eight class periods each day.  

He had to decrease his course offerings to high school students a couple years ago when junior high classes were added to his schedule. If this new cut is approved, he will only be able to teach five high school classes per day.  

A large number of alumni in the district have gone on to pursue employment in agricultural fields. However, students are finding it more difficult to schedule the high school classes they need for a future in agriculture with increased core requirements for graduation and less ag course offerings due to the addition of junior high classes. Proposed cuts would increase that challenge.

Parents expressed concern that a cut such as this would be detrimental to the education of students hoping to pursue a degree in agriculture.  

Powers has an extended contract offering extra days to oversee the many agriculture programs that take place in the summer; that contract will also be cut by 25 percent if cuts are approved. Most likely this would mean that he would no longer work in June.

Parents asked how their students would be able to compete in county fairs and the state fair without the required assistance by an FFA advisor.

Detailed entry forms must be completed and signed by an FFA advisor, many in June. It was noted that administrators might be able to step in and do this for students. However, parents expressed concern that administrators who aren’t experienced with this may not know how to do it correctly and their students could be disqualified.

Cook has recommended cutting around 20 positions in the district, including the building and trades teacher. That program has provided students with valuable construction skills. In previous years, students have spent the year building a house from the ground up; they have built several houses over the years. More recently they have done building projects for the school.

“I am very, very disappointed that it is not going to be around,” Powers said of recommendations to cut the building and trades program.

Parents expressed concern that with the loss of the building and trades program and cuts to the agriculture program students will not have adequate access to learning hands-on skills.

Additional cuts on the table include more than $245,000 from the special education department, which would include a teacher, 12 para-educators and reduced days for three secretaries.  

It may also mean additional cuts totaling more than $281,0000, which includes three librarians, a music teacher, a part-time art teacher, maintenance, utility, the building and trades teacher and reducing Powers’ position.

Community members urged each other to contact board members and to attend the board’s public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. March 18.

E-B-F school board members include:

Deb Bahr: 641-660-6559

Jeff Claypool: 641-799-2931

Dave Friedman: 641-938-2340

Dan Hulbert: 641-933-4139

Kevin Lane: 641-969-464

Mike Mayberry: 641-933-4373

Gay Murphy: 641-295-1581