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Neligh-Oakdale voted last week to add a new teaching position for 2017-18, but the board actually spent more time in closed session discussing trade name and possible legal action.
The only public discussion on the latter agenda item was when Diann Arehart of Neligh asked the board to consider the impact of the Neligh-Oakdale Booster Club having to pay for rights to use the Warrior mascot when “the boosters support the school.”
The board then spent 47 minutes in closed session on the item. No action was taken when they exited and the meeting immediately adjourned. However, Blackburn Manufacturing officials said they were later contacted by Superintendent Scott Gregory requesting their company grant permission of use of the Warrior logo specifically to the school and the Neligh News & Leader. Gregory did not request permission for use by the booster club or any other entity.
Earlier in the meeting, the board approved creating a full-time ag position beginning this fall. Gregory said he began advertising for the position “a week or two weeks” prior to the approval in anticipation that the board would be in favor of the new position.
Neligh-Oakdale reportedly has offered the position to one of the candidates.
Two members of the public addressed the board on hiring an ag teacher — Greg Koinzan of Tilden and Diann Arehart of Neligh. Although Koinzan does not reside in the district, he is a graduate of the school. Arehart lives in the district and has a son attending.
Koinzan addressed each board member individually and spoke of either their financial dependence on agriculture or their experience with FFA and agricluture. He also identified several other audience members with their ag-related employment. After four minutes, Board
President Dave Wright informed Koinzan that according to board policy, he had just one minute remaining to speak.
“Well, Dave, you’re probably going to have to call the cops. This is who pays the bill and why, and if you need to call the cops, that’s fine. I’m going to say what I have to say,” Koinzan said.
Wright did not reply or address Koinzan again, instead sitting mute until Koinzan finished his presentation several minutes later.
Koinzan addressed taxes, saying half of the $180 per acre of gross income goes to taxes. During his presentation, Koinzan said half of the income goes toward taxes with 80 percent going to the school.
“There are two things I’m very sure of tonight. If you ask a farmer, he’s going to tell you taxes are too high and times are tough. He’s also going to ask you to please educate his kids,” he said.
Arehart then spoke and said she supports agriculture and has family members who farm. Her concern, she said, was that there were other higher priorities by students. She said the student survey indicated agriculture classes ranked fifth in classes that the students were interested in adding at Neligh-Oakdale.
“That’s not what our kids want. If you are here to honor our kids and to do right by our kids, then you’ll look at the survey and address it accordingly,” Arehart said.
She added, “We have 16 kids interested in ag. How many kids does that leave that are not interested in ag? Ag is a great program; FFA is a great program - if that’s what our kids want.”
According to the survey, the student interest was 1. health science education, 2. education and training, 3. human services, 4. science, technology, engineering and mathematics and 5. agriculture.
Board member Kenny Reinke said student interest surveys aren’t always reliable. “If we survey kids and say, ‘Hey, do you want to take a math class?’ I’m going to guess quite a few of them are going to say no.’
However, according to the survey, there was more interest in math classes than agriculture. Math was fourth with technology and engineering while agriculture ranked fifth.
Gregory said there were four options presented to the board on how to proceed with adding a new program for students. The first option included a combination of hiring an agriculture teacher and a technology teacher and potentially co-oping with another district. The next two options were a combination of one full-time and one part-time teacher.
The fourth option, which was selected by the board, was to hire only a full-time agriculture instructor.
Reinke said the district has attempted agriculture classes several times in the last five years from an exploratory junior high class to distance learning, but it’s never worked out and few students were able to take the classes due to scheduling.
“It seems like every time we try to do it we give them a little taste of it and have to stop in our tracks. We’ve never been able to keep going through that process and show them the full potential,” he said.
Although Neligh-Oakdale does not have a full-time agriculture instructor, it does offer welding and other mechanical classes through its industrial arts program with Aaron Wilson.
Board member Cory Furstenau said he was surprised by the lack of technology. He said the school only offers two computer classes at this time — keyboarding and computer applications.
“I don’t know what the curriculum all is in the school,” said Furstenau, who serves on the board’s instruction committee. “But I was really surprised by that in today’s day in age.”
Board member Ron Gilg asked if the new ag position could include some technology. Furstenau said it could include “GPS, bottle steer-type classes.”
Gregory said although the board was not in favor of adding the information technology instructor, he remains hopeful that those students’ needs will be addressed at some point.
As for the other many other classes requested by students, including health science and human services, those interests were not discussed.
With the additional teacher, a classroom will be needed for agriculture. Currently, the school’s TeamMates mentoring program uses the classroom by the welding room. The board discussed using that for agriculture and no longer using it for TeamMates.
As for the cost of creating the position, Gregory said it would cost the district between $82,891 to $103,238, which includes insurance, social security and other compensation. Gregory said he also included $20,000 for start-up costs, as well as 20 extra contract days, which is routinely provided to FFA sponsors.