A dozen people gave reason after reason why a third teaching position in the high school vocational agriculture program should remain, but in the end principal Troy Young made the decision to eliminate the position.
More than 300 parents, teachers, farmers, businessmen, public officials and students packed into the gymnasium to show there support for keeping a third teaching position in the ag department.
More than a dozen people including David Herbst, Tommy Grider, agriculture teacher Kirby Hancock, magistrate Billy Rowe, attorneys Elmer George and Todd Spalding, spoke to the Site Based Decision Making Council for nearly three hours about the importance of agriculture and ag education to the community.
After a brief round of comments from council members, Young announced that according to a SBDM policy from 2008, it was his decision alone on whether or not the third teaching position would remain.
Young said it is his recommendation that classes that are in progress under the third teaching position continue to be taught by a substitute teacher for the remaining of the first trimester. After that, the high school would integrate a foreign language position in its place.
The staffing policy adopted in February 2008 states: “In August, notify the SBDM Council of how each new and returning staff members has been assigned.”
It leaves in question, however, how Young can assign a position for a teacher that apparently has not yet been hired by the site based council.
Following his announcement, people quickly expressed confusion and anger. Students were in tears, farmers questioned the need for a council and some SBDM council members were obviously confused.
In an interview following the meeting, council member Sandy Pyles apologized to the community for the way the issue was handled.
“I had no idea nor did Melinda Franklin that a decision was already made,” Pyles said. “We were just as surprised as everyone else.
“We walked out in shock. We wasted three hours of our time and everyone else’s. We were in there thinking we could all reach an agreement that would be good for everybody. I would love to see two positions hired.
“I am just shocked. I would not feel as bad if when he (Young) passed his recommendation down the table it had not been typed. He came in to the meeting knowing what he was going to do. I apologize to the community for the waste of time. I thought we all had a say.”
During magistrate Billy Rowe’s comments he recommended that the council use the funds allotted for Harvey’s salary to hire both an ag teacher and a foreign language teacher. A new teacher’s salary is far less than a salary for a teacher reaching retirement.
“I think he made up his mind before he got here,” Rowe said. “The site based council members should have gotten to vote and not just the principal.”
Many people flocked to the middle of the gym as soon as the meeting was adjourned. Avid supporters were shouting questions at Young and other council members. Most council members and Young were able to leave the gym shortly after the meeting. However, council members Kevin Robertson and Michael Godsey were stuck with the brunt of the questions.
“I don’t appreciate the way our principal acted,” Ernie Rodgers said. “The way he wouldn’t let the site based council vote.”
Ag students and FFA members, who were dressed in full attire, were in tears throughout the gymnasium.
FFA president Jana Hopkins said she was angry about the decision but tried to console other FFA members who were also upset about the decision.
“FFA is supposed to grow, not decrease,” Hopkins said. “Tomorrow is going to be rough. This is the worst thing that I could ever imagine. This is a nightmare. If I didn’t have ag in high school, I would be the quiet one that never talked to anyone. If ag decreases, people won’t stick with it. He had his mind made up before we got here. FFA is the reason I come to school and the reason I have come so far in high school.”
Hopkins said with the elimination of the third position it eliminates opportunities for a third of the students in the program.
“They didn’t ask for this,” Hopkins continued. “I wish he wouldn’t have had his mind made up.”
Amber Phillips, senior scrapbooking officer for FFA, was in tears immediately after the decision was announced.
“I think Mr. Young should have made the vote in public,” Phillips said. “He made up his mind before he got here. Two teachers can’t teach 300 students.”
“I feel like everyone should have gotten to vote,” said FFA student Amber Akers. “FFA is the biggest organization in this school. I don’t see how they expect two teachers to do all the work.”
The Community Voice is attempting to contact the rest of the SBDM council members and superintendent Alan Reed. Stay tuned to this week’s issue of the Community Voice for more in-depth coverage.
SBDM Council members are Michael Godsey, Marsha Reddick, Kevin Robertson, Melinda Franklin and Sandy Pyles. The council meets on the third Monday of each month at 3:15 p.m. at the high school.
By Allison Cross-Hollon