School contemplating new ag program

by nathan oster

Big Horn County School District No. 3’s board of directors faces a decision in the coming months about whether to re-establish an agriculture program at Greybull High School for the 2015-16 school year.

The board discussed the idea during its Dec. 9 meeting, ultimately agreeing to invite Jared Boardman, the advisor of the Paintrock FFA program and leader of the ag program in Basin, and Ralph Wensky, industrial arts teacher at GHS, to the January meeting.

Supt. Barry Bryant said a decision would need to be made by February about whether to proceed with the program, noting that the best ag teachers on the market typically get jobs early in the hiring season.

Greybull school officials have been studying the idea of launching their own program for the past several months. Right now, kids from GHS are bussed to Basin for their ag classes, which are taught by Boardman. The two schools combine, however, when it comes to the FFA program, with all students competing as members of the Paintrock FFA.

GHS Principal Ty Flock said about a dozen parents attended a meeting in mid November where the proposal was discussed. While a couple were lukewarm, the majority were supportive of having two distinct ag programs but still only one FFA chapter.

Flock also elaborated on a question he’d received about why he wants to do this. Like offering college-level courses, the addition of an ag program would just be one more option for kids to explore. He added that more kids might go out for the ag program, if they could stay on campus and didn’t have to drive to Basin for the classes.

While the two districts would have their own programs, they would combine for FFA, with each of the ag teachers sharing coaching responsibilities. Flock said the key is going to be recruiting the right person. If the district doesn’t, the program isn’t going to work. Trustee Cheri Edeler agreed, saying that if the board proceeds with the launch, the Greybull ag teacher would have to be someone who is compatible with Boardman.

Supt. Barry Bryant also noted that an ag program could potentially have a negative impact on the industrial arts program. “It would probably take some kids away (from Wensky’s classes),” said Bryant.

Trustee Eddie Johnson said another benefit of having an ag program at GHS would be the instruction time that is saved. Students would no longer be required to make the 10-minute trip to Basin for classes. “Doesn’t seem like much, but you take that over a week, and that’s one class period that they lose,” he said. “Over a year, it’s quite a bit.”

Bryant said it’s too soon to tell whether the district is going to be in a financial position to start the program next year. The district hopes to earmark money for school buses and hasn’t raised teacher base salaries in several years.

Edeler said she’s heard “mostly supportive” feedback from her constituents.

Chair Jamie Flitner echoed Edeler, but added, “as long as Jared’s involved. He’s been a catalyst. These kids are so motivated by him.” She later added that there is “camaraderie among FFA members. They enjoy being on the same team.”

Flock’s report to the board also included mention of a reclassification proposal for football that is coming out of the southeastern part of the state. The proposal has yet to be submitted to the WHSAA, but it would have a significant impact on the 2A ranks, where Greybull plays.

Right now there are two divisions.   The proposal would create an additional division. The motivation behind it is to cut down on travel time. Right now the Buffs have conference games against Big Piney, Pinedale, Mountain View and Kemmerer.

The proposal would put the Buffs in a new division, where their longest trips would be over the mountain to play either Tongue River or Big Horn and where they’d play teams like Thermopolis, now in 2A East, and current 1A schools Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain and Burlington.

 

Audit report

Bryan Brown, the lead auditor with McKee, Marburger and Fagnant, P.C., provided the district’s annual audit report. Once again the district, and in particular its business office staff, received high marks in the form of a clean audit.

Brown reported a 6-percent increase in intergovernmental revenue, largely due to enrollment increases, and said the district was “right on budget for the year.” The district would have ended the year with approximately $1 million in reserves, had it not agreed to accelerate the purchase of a school bus.

The Board of Cooperative Education Services audit showed more than $65,000 in revenues, $14,000 in costs, for a change in net position of $51-52,000, which will be carried over as a cushion for future budget years. The recreation district audit showed around $131,000 in revenues and $130,000 in costs, resulting in a net gain of about $1,800 for the fiscal year.

 

In other Dec. 9 business:

  • Activities Director Nolan Tracy informed the board about a generous offer made by Scott McColloch, on behalf of the Overland Express Mart. Tracy said McColloch approached him, saying he wanted to donate money for Greybull’s boys and girls summer basketball programs.

The boys program, for example, involves summer league contests, participation in tournaments around the region and every other year in a trip to the West Coast for games in and around Seattle.

Tracy said McColloch’s desire is to tie the store’s monetary donations to statistical categories. In that way, the donations would be based upon team performance. Tracy said McColloch is willing to donate up to $1,500 for the boys program and another $1,500 for the girls program, for a total of $3,000.

Tracy said McColloch has contacted two other local businesses and asked whether they would be willing to match the Overland’s donation. They are reportedly mulling the request, according to Tracy.

The board took no action, opting to wait until a specific dollar figure is known with respect to the Overland donation, as well as any other donations that are made. But board members were supportive of the idea, calling it a generous act by a local business owner.

Tracy also fielded a question about the scheduling of the Yellowstone middle school girls basketball tournament, which this year, for the first time, falls on the same weekend as the state wrestling and regional basketball tournaments. Edeler said scheduling the two basketball tournaments on the same weekend puts parents in a position of having to choose.

Tracy said the landscape of middle school sports has changed in recent years in the Big Horn Basin. There are now two tournaments instead of just one — one, the Big Horn, involving smaller team, the other, the Yellowstone, involving larger teams.

Tracy said the larger schools in the area prefer that the tournaments be held on different weekends, citing problems lining up buses and bus drivers for four different teams on the same weekend.

Parents of players in those larger schools, however, do not face the same choices as smaller schools on the weekend of the Yellowstone tournament. In 3A, regional tournaments are held a week later than they are in the 2A ranks.

“You’re never going to find a schedule that works for everyone,” said Tracy.

The reason he supports the status quo is because it benefits more kids, as schools can send teams to four tournaments (seventh and eighth, Big Horn and Yellowstone), instead of just two.

  • In administrative reports, GMS Principal Scott McBride and GHS Principal Ty Flock both reported that professional development has been a point of emphasis of late.

Flock’s report also included news that a Tim Eardley is poised to begin teaching a Spanish concurrent enrollment class at GHS, starting in the fall of 2015. Eardley came to the district with experience teaching Spanish at the college level. Flock said a college-level English class is also in the works. Mr. Hanlin would teach it.

  • Supt. Bryant reported that a meeting with local legislators to discuss school issues had been set for Thursday, Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the GHS library/media center.

He said he’s still researching what other districts are doing with respect to concussion testing, an idea proposed by Dr. Dusty Hill, and that he’d also look into what could be done to improve the safety of the bleachers at the football field.

  • The district agreed to purchase 60 desktop computers for the new middle school labs and another 25 desktop computers for elementary teachers through a contract with Del, which came in with the low bid of $65,874.
  • The board spent nearly an hour in executive session, devoting time to litigation and the superintendent’s evaluation. When it emerged after 10 p.m., the board “agreed to take the superintendent’s recommendation” on the litigation matter.