• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Proposed schedule eliminates agriculture class at WCMS

Woodford County Middle School will lose two teaching positions next school year under a proposed master schedule being presented to the WCMS site-based council for a second reading at a special meeting on Monday, March 6, at 5:15 p.m. in the library. One core subject area teaching position and an agriculture teaching position would be eliminated under the proposed schedule for next school year, WCMS Principal Tracy Bruno said on Tuesday morning. He said one option being discussed to ensure the middle school does not lose its agriculture program "altogether" is possibly bringing in an ag teacher from the high school to teach an eighth-grade agriculture class and serve as an FFA advisor at WCMS next year. The FFA program at WCMS may also continue next year by partnering with the local UK Cooperative Extension Service, he explained in an email. The staff reductions are necessary because of a projected drop in enrollment at WCMS of about 70 students, said Bruno. He said a larger-than-normal eighth-grade class of about 355 students will be replaced by a much smaller sixth-grade class based on district enrollment projections. The proposal to eliminate the middle school's only agriculture teaching position was made "because that's been a very unsteady position for us," said Bruno. "We're on our fourth teacher in four years." He pointed out that middle school agriculture teachers often leave for better paying high school positions, with 240-day teaching contracts. Bruno said only eight Kentucky middle schools employ agriculture teachers, but he also acknowledged that there has not been a decline in student interest in taking the agriculture class, which also includes curriculum in woodworking and welding. Five one-hour classes are currently being taught by the WCMS agriculture teacher in what is defined as one of the school's exploration (elective) classes. Others are art, band, chorus, Chinese, music, PE, orchestra, Spanish, technology and writing, Bruno said. As of Tuesday morning, Bruno said he had talked to two parents about the proposal to eliminate the agriculture class and they understood the rationale for that decision after their conversations, but he acknowledged "there's a lot going on in social media right now, but nobody's really reaching out, talking to any of our site-based members or myself." If student enrollment numbers rebound at WCMS and additional teaching positions are created at some point in the future, Bruno said he would support offering agriculture as one of the middle school's exploration classes. "It's never easy to lose teachers in exploration or core (subject areas)," Bruno said. "Both of those (teaching position losses) weigh on my heart equally. You're talking about kids and livelihoods of teachers." "Any time that you're talking about a staff reduction because of numbers, it's always a tough discussion, a tough decision to make," he said. Public comment will be heard prior to a second reading to approve a master schedule for the 2017-18 school year at next Monday'sWCMS site-based council meeting.

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