In tough economic times, it’s understandable that cities, counties and schools are looking wherever they can to make budget cuts.
But as I sat inside the auditorium of Sibley-Ocheyedan High School Wednesday night, I couldn’t help thinking a planned cut in the summer contract for the school’s only agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor was a bad idea.
As a four-year FFA alum and Minnesota FFA degree holder, I am a proud supporter of the program that teaches students so many life skills.
When I returned to my hometown newspaper more than five years ago and introduced myself to the area agriculture teachers, I quickly learned that Mike Earll is one of those gems that will do anything he can to promote the FFA. His chapter has had so many successes in recent years, and he is always quick to recognize his students for the work they’ve done.
Earll presented several statistics and successes of the S-O FFA Chapter at Wednesday night’s meeting — information that didn’t make it into Thursday’s edition of the Daily Globe, yet should not go unnoticed.
The chapter was named a National Model of Innovation finalist twice in the last three years, and has been in the Top 20 in the National Chapter Award in 14 of the last 15 years, earning the state award three times.
While just a fraction of 1 percent of all FFA members ever go on to earn their American FFA degree, S-O FFA has 14 of them (six between 1936 and 1980, and eight between 1981 and 2009). Earll, himself a graduate of the high school, is counted among them.
As for Iowa FFA degree recipients, the chapter boasts 215 (49 between 1936 and 1980, and 166 between 1981 and 2009). The chapter has been home to seven Iowa FFA officers between 1981 and 2009, and had 31 Northwest District FFA officers during that same time.
In order for students to achieve such honors, it requires dedication on the part of the FFA advisor, and Earll told board members Wednesday night that between July 2008 and April 26 he has worked 26 out of 33 Saturdays and 16 of the 34 Sundays. Between the weekend hours and additional time spent before and after school — and during the summer — he has logged 971.75 hours of unpaid work.
Now, how many employees out there are willing to put in that much extra time and not be compensated for it? Earll’s compensation, I guess you could say, is the satisfaction in knowing he had a hand in helping his students build a strong foundation for success.
Loretta Berkland, an FFA parent and supporter of Earll, addressed the board Wednesday night saying that instead of trying to cut the ag instructor’s summer contract, they should have called a public meeting to congratulate and thank Earll for the dedication and commitment he has had to the students, the agriculture program and the FFA chapter for the past 29 years.
I couldn’t agree more.