Southeastern expands ag education program

(Posted May 1, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Southeastern Local Schools is expanding agricultural and environmental programming at the junior high and high school and the staffing to go with it.

At their April meeting, school board members approved the hiring of a second vocational agriculture teacher. Ellyse Shafer, a recent college graduate, joins Darrick Riggs, long-time ag teacher and FFA advisor at Southeastern. Shafer’s one-year contract takes effect for the 2019-20 school year.

“She’s raring to go,” said Superintendent David Shea, adding that Shafer interviewed well. She was among a dozen or so applicants for the job and one of five interviewed for the position.

The district is retooling its agricultural programs to be more comprehensive and career-focused. In the past, the district has provided courses in agribusiness and production systems. Starting next school year, new courses will cover:

  • agronomic systems;
  • ag and industrial power;
  • electronic and electrical systems;
  • hydraulics and pneumatics;
  • principles of bio science;
  • bioresearch;
  • meat and science technology;
  • environmental science for agriculture and natural resources; and
  • business management for agricultural and environmental systems.

The district is looking to collaborate with Clark State Community College to offer college credit for a high school class that feeds into Clark State’s precision ag associate degree program.

New at the junior high for next year are introductory ag classes available at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels. Each are nine weeks long and include an overview of agriculture and its importance to Clark County.

“As efficiency in agriculture increases, it is important that our students be instructed on the concepts needed to apply the new technologies,” Shea stated. “The era of scientific agriculture is upon us. Biology, computer science and engineering will all play roles moving forward. The demand for technical expertise on and off the farm will become more prevalant in Clark County and beyond. Our goal is to better prepare Southeastern students for the ever changing world.”

In addition to agriculture classes, the district offers engineering classes in grades 7-12. Junior high offerings include engineering design and modeling in seventh grade and automation and robotics in eighth grade. Possibilities at the high school include engineering design, civil engineering and architecture, digital electronics, and principles of engineering.

School resource officer

In other discussion at the April meeting, Shea introduced Southeastern Police Officer Michael Seagraves to the board. Seagraves is the district’s new school resource officer. Shea said Seagraves has already helped with wellness checks, transportation of students, and other safety and support tasks. He has even participated in physical education classes with students.

“It has a different feel in the school. I really like it. The students really like it,” said P.J. Bertemes, junior high and high school principal, about Seagraves’s presence. Bertemes added that a handful of parents have commented positively, too.

Medical insurance costs

District Treasurer Ben Kitchen reported that medical insurance premiums for school employees is projected to increase by 17 percent starting Jan. 1, 2020. The increase would cost the district an additional $155,000 per year. Shea said district leaders are looking into options. Southeastern belongs to a purchasing council that buys items like medical insurance and school buses for a pool of 100 or so school districts.

150th anniversary

School board member Kim Owens passed along information from a group of alumni who are planning a celebration of 150 years of public education in South Charleston. The anniversary year, 2021, coincides with the 50th reunion year of the Class of 1971. Duane Robbins, a 1971 graduate, is spearheading the planning. The group’s next meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. June 15 at Chillicothe Street Pizza, 54 S. Chillicothe St., South Charleston.

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