Did FFA trip deserve the microscope?

The recent actions of two trustees to put the Gilroy High School
agriculture program field trips under a micromanagement microscope
left us mystified. The school board recently split 5-2 on approving
two field trips for 12 Future Farmers of America students, a type
of request that is normally routine, an easy

yes

for trustees.
The recent actions of two trustees to put the Gilroy High School agriculture program field trips under a micromanagement microscope left us mystified. The school board recently split 5-2 on approving two field trips for 12 Future Farmers of America students, a type of request that is normally routine, an easy “yes” for trustees.

Rhoda Bress and Tom Bundros pulled the item off the consent calendar to ask legitimate questions about policy, procedure and academic focus. They wanted to question using a counselor as a chaperone when that duty took a person away from the high school. They wanted to point out that parents were not accompanying students on the trip. Though listed as parents on the official request sheet, the teacher’s mother and a friend were the actual chaperones.

Bundros and Bress made their points. It’s just too bad it had to be done with focus on the FFA program.

GHS’s ag program has had a difficult row to hoe in recent years, and it finally seems to be on the rebound under teacher Heather Nolan. Given the importance of agriculture in our area, the hope is that the program will rise to the level of the GHS choir and band programs. Certainly, the program has the support of the parents as advocates and as helpers in fund-raising. That no parents were on the chaperone list seems to be because they were not asked. Bress and Bundros wanted to point that out. The other side of that coin, however, is that by accompanying the FFA students on the field trip, the counselor would come to understand the program’s value. That would, in turn, lead to recommendations for students to get involved in the program. Thus, more numbers and a stronger program.

The “no” votes cast against the two FFA conferences were symbolic only. But we still disagree with that vote because it feels like a a slap at a program in need of support.

Have trustees questioned the value of field trips for athletes or music groups that take teachers and students out of the classroom? Not at this point. FFA is not a lightweight academic program. During the conferences, FFA students will be using and learning about science, mathematics, writing, oral presentation and research.

Bress and Bundros have “big picture” questions about field trips, allocation of funds and teacher time. But a better way to address those would have been at the policy level, not targeting a program. Review the policy first, make necessary changes with community input, and then implement those changes at the schools with lots of advance notice.

This method called into question the merits of the FFA program, field trips and the dedication of parents and it caused the students and teacher to wonder if trustees believe that they are of less academic importance than the choir or the wrestling team. That sends a message of insecurity and a lack of support to a group that deserves the exact opposite.

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