Ag education to remain at WCMS
The agricultural education program at Woodford County Middle School is not being eliminated, but a site-based council did not make a decision on what two classes to cut next school year. On Monday, the council agreed to meet again next Monday to vote on what classes to eliminate. The cuts are necessary because of a projected decrease in student enrollment next school year. Strong public support for keeping agricultural education in the middle school led to that program no longer being considered as one of two classes being eliminated next school year. That public support was evident again by the students, parents and members of the farming community who attended Monday's meeting, and those who spoke. Patty Perry, who serves on the Planning Commission, urged the WCMS site-based council to not eliminate agricultural education. From 2010 to 2014, the employee population of people working in the agriculture industry in Woodford County grew by 36.9 percent, she said. She also shared a story about how agricultural education and its FFA program gives many students the self-confidence to speak in front of people. Her daughter, Emily Perry, said being involved in the FFA chapter at Woodford County High School from 2008 to 2012 gave her many opportunities to serve in leadership roles and become a confident public speaker. "FFA is important to me because without FFA I could not get up here and speak to you," said Perry, who earned a degree in general agricultural at Morehead State University. She's currently employed by the Farm Service Agency, where she assists farmers in Fayette, Jessamine and Scott counties every day. Scott Travis, a member of Kentucky Farm Bureau's board of directors, explained the value of vocational agriculture in a school like WCMS. "It gives kids so much opportunity," he said. "Please value this program and how many kids are going to benefit from it. And what it will mean to them as they get older," added Travis. With the decision to keep agricultural education, the council was unable to reach a consensus on what two classes (teaching positions) to eliminate from next year's class schedule following a long discussion on Monday. Options included cutting two core classes or cutting one core class and one exploration class, which provide students with experiences outside of the core subject areas of math, science, social students and language arts. Creative writing was again discussed as one exploration class to eliminate from next school year's schedule options for students. Council members did raise the possibility of eliminating a second exploration class next school year, but Principal Tracy Bruno said that had never really been considered an option. WCMS teacher and council member Janet Bauer said she could not support a decision to cut two core classes, and did not understand why the council was not considering the option of cutting two exploration classes. "I do not want to cut two core classes," said Bauer. "To be honest, I don't want to cut one core class. I don't want to lose core." She viewed keeping core classes as a critical way of retaining students who may choose to attend a charter school if that becomes an option for parents in Kentucky who are unhappy with a school's report card. In his experience as a principal in Nashville, Tenn., Bruno said one of the reasons that students stayed in a public school were the varied learning opportunities available to them in exploration classes. WCMS teacher and council member J.J. Viera voiced concern about eliminating a core subject-area teaching position because he wants to keep a team of teachers together from year to year "to gain that sense of community." He and Bauer voiced support for cutting two exploration classes: creative writing and general music keyboarding. Other council members backed the option to cut one core position and one exploration position, with all but one of them identifying creative writing as that class. After the council was unable to reach consensus on a motion by Bruno to cut one core class and creative writing, a special meeting was scheduled next Monday at 5:15 p.m. in the WCMS library. Council members will vote at that meeting, with the majority determining what classes will be cut from next school year's schedule.