The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 20, 2013

E-B-F ag program kept intact; budget still under discussion




Crowd comes to support program

The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board welcomed a standing room-only crowd this week in response to recent recommendations to make budget cuts that could affect a couple dozen jobs throughout the district.

In fact, the crowd that mostly came in support of the EBF agriculture program spilled out into the hallway as the room filled.  Part of the recommended cuts had been to reduce ag teacher, Pat Powers’ position by 25 percent.

Superintendent Dean Cook opened the meeting saying of that proposed cut to the ag program, “I’ve been mulling this over for quite some time.

“Here’s what I’m going to do ... I’m taking this off the table. I understand the impact its going to have on this school district. I understand that. We can be proud of our program — we probably have one of the best programs in the state.”

More than a dozen people spoke at the board meeting in support of keeping the ag program in full force. Alumni with successful agriculture careers and more recent graduates of the E-B-F program currently attending college came to testify how the E-B-F program prepared and motivated them to pursue their chosen fields. Also current students and industry leaders spoke in support of Powers and the program.

Alumnus Justin Doyle demonstrated in detail how the E-B-F ag program meets the school district’s mission statement. He also noted how time consuming Powers’ job is when he showed the board the complex paperwork students complete with the advisor’s assistance to earn the American FFA degree.

Pekin Ag Instructor Justin Lamb and Allison Angle, a former ag instructor from another district, explained to the board how much time goes into a position such as this and the importance of a summer contract.

Meanwhile, John Deere Ottumwa Works Manager Andrew Hansen sent a representative to the meeting with a prepared statement urging the board to continue to invest in future generations with the E-B-F Ag Program.

Maurice Gardner from Cargill, an alumnus and former board member said, “We teach our kids if you work really hard and you achieve excellence, our society will reward you.” He urged the board to “show precedence to our students on how we treat those programs that truly do produce excellence in our community for our students.”

Cargill Corn Merchandising Manager Raymond Jenkins, also sent a prepared statement to the board: “Under the leadership of Pat Powers, our local ag education curriculum provides much more than the basics, it provides a foundation of life skills that are important whether the aspiration in life is to be a farmer, a plant technician or even a plant manager.”

“What a great feeling to me on the board to see the success that some of you people have got,” said board member David Friedman. “A lot of you have very successful careers now, and I am very proud of the teaching staff that we have, all teaching staff.”

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