Woodford County

Speakers plead for continuation of agriculture education classes

Sydney Beavers, 16, a Woodford County High School student, spoke in favor of keeping the agriculture education program at Woodford County Middle School.
Sydney Beavers, 16, a Woodford County High School student, spoke in favor of keeping the agriculture education program at Woodford County Middle School. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Farmers and students pleaded Monday night for the agriculture education program to be kept intact at Woodford County Middle School.

“I wouldn’t be standing here and be half the person I am if I hadn’t taken the ag classes that I did,” said Melissa Tomblin, president of the Woodford County Farm Bureau. “It’s very imperative that we keep these classes.”

Woodford County High student Sydney Beavers, 16, spoke in favor of career education programs like the ag program.

“ Please, think about the children who are going to produce the food that is on your plate every day,” Sydney said.

She and Tomblin were among the speakers who addressed the middle school’s decision-making council. About 50 people attended the meeting.

In the end, the school council tabled a decision on staffing cuts until March 20.

The middle school is looking to cut two staffing positions because of a projected enrollment decline in the 2017-18 school year, principal Tracy Bruno said. One of those is the teaching position for the ag education class and the other will be a science, social studies, math or language arts position.

Bruno said he will explore whether a high school ag teacher could come to the middle school and teach an eighth-grade ag class.

“At the end of the day, we lose two positions. We cannot keep two positions that we haven’t earned by our population,” Bruno said.

The middle school, with an enrollment of more than 950, has 299 agriculture students and 46 Future Farmers of America members. Woodford Middle is one of eight middle school agriculture education programs in the state, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. There are 143 high school ag education programs across Kentucky.

But speakers were astonished that the council would consider cutting an ag class in a county where agriculture plays a major role in economic stability.

Bobby Gaffney, a retired ag teacher and former fiscal court magistrate, told the council members: “Guess where you get most of your taxes from to run the school system? It comes from agricultural land.”

Current fiscal court magistrate Ken Reed also pleaded for the ag program.

“I beg you tonight to not do away with this class,” Reed said. “If I have accomplished anything in my life, I want to tell you how I did that. I did it through vocational agriculture and Future Farmers of America.”

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