Botetourt County school board may eliminate agricultural teacher position

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va (WDBJ7) Several parents and students in Botetourt County are upset of the proposed school budget cutting an agricultural teacher position from the county.

That position is currently open at James River High School. However, rather than pay for the replacement, the school board is considering eliminating the position and having an Ag teacher from one of the other high schools float between two schools.

The FFA program at James River High School is an active, award-winning program. Many students who compete nationally go on to have careers in agriculture.

Amy White lives in Buchanan and is a 6th generation cattle farmer. She says her kids participated in the FFA program at JRHS, which set them on the career paths their on now.

Her daughter is studying to be a veterinarian and her son is majoring in poultry science.

"Most of her success and many of her opportunities are a direct result of the positive youth experiences," White said. "And the same is true for my son, Davis. Again, he has had so many opportunities as a direct result of the FFA at James River High School."

She says the Ag programs at the high school are invaluable. She wants the school board to explore other options and keep all four agricultural teacher positions.

"I think this is almost a nickel and dime solution to a bigger problem," White said. "So I would ask that there would be a long term sustainable solution to budget problems, not a temporary band-aid."

She's not alone in believing in the program's benefits.

Michael Beahm has been a member of the Botetourt County School Board since the 1990s. He's also in the agricultural business.

He says he understands the value of agricultural programs at the high schools.

"If we don't get the really bright students in there, it's not so much what an individual situation might be, but it's what the entire populace are going to face in food and feed production over the coming years," he said.

However, he also says the board is experiencing a pretty serious lack of funding, which means tough decisions have to be made.

"We been in this situation in a serious way for ten years," he explained. "And we've been able to kind of band-aid things, maneuver a few things around, but there's just simply a whole lot of bird coming home to roost this year."

He says he doesn't believe one teacher can adequately run two high school Ag programs and adds that the board is still looking at all the budget proposals.

"We do not have a fixed budget at this point. And as I said, I think the board was very strong in its opinions that they wanted to see and find some alternatives. And that was instruction the school board to administration."

The budget work session is on Thursday night at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend. The board will present its final budget proposal to the public on March 28th.