Clearfield Board Revisits Ag Department Issue

(GantDaily Graphic)

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors revisited the ongoing controversy that has surrounded its decision to cut a teaching position in the high school’s agriculture department.

In June, the board approved the elimination of seven staff positions, including the agriculture teaching position to save approximately $200,000 in its 2010-11 budget.

Despite concerns raised by members of the agricultural community, the board opted not to reinstate the position for the current school year. However, the board advised it would evaluate the situation prior to the start of the second semester.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board heard from Jeremy Hudson, a guidance counselor who works specifically with students in the agriculture program. In 2009-10, there were 87 students enrolled in the program, he said.

Further, he said the program enrolled 64 students through the first semester of this year. He said that 103 students would be enrolled next semester. Of those, there are 66 new students who were not enrolled in agricultural courses this semester.

Hudson estimated that 40 percent, or 22, of the new students are eligible to be in the agricultural program. He said those figures put enrollment at around 86 students.

According to him, he and teacher Lori Clayton are looking to establish a two-year plan for the program. If implemented, he said all current courses would be offered but not every year. For example, a freshman who could not take a course then would have to wait until their junior year to do so.

Hudson said that the agricultural department may transition into a program of study in the near future. He said students would be required to prove competency in the program’s basic components and also complete nine dual enrollment courses.

In January, he said Chris Weller of the Pennsylvania Department of Education was willing to evaluate the status of the agriculture students’ safety while in the classrooms. He planned to collect specific details related to class size and number of work stations.

“I know safety has been my own and the board’s greatest concern,” board President Dave Glass said. He said he is currently satisfied with the status of the agriculture department but wants a stamp of approval from Weller on behalf of PDE.

Interim Superintendent J. Thomas Frantz told Hudson that any program changes must be communicated to the agriculture department’s advisory committee. He said their input would be necessary to move forward.

“We won’t make these changes without them,” he said.

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