Fully stocked: Ag students in need of bigger barn

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, November 20, 2013
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The success of the Decatur High School agriculture program has created plenty of student enthusiasm but also a shrinking amount of space.

Both were on display at Monday’s school board meeting.

During the student recognition portion of the meeting, Decatur ag students were honored for their recent performance at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky.

Full House

FULL HOUSE – The Decatur ag barn is at capacity, due in large part to the growing number of students in the program. Success of students such as Shelby Drews, a member of the Chapter Quiz Team that finished fifth in a recent national competition, has led to increased popularity of the program, according to school officials. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Chapter Quiz Team placed fifth overall in the National FFA Quiz Contest, which is a general know-ledge test over the National FFA Handbook. Team members include Michaela Cross, Caylla Cotten, Shelby Drews and Michael Hicks. Cross was second high individual of the contest.

Brooke Millican, a 2012 DHS graduate, was also honored for being named national champion of the Home and/or Community Development-Entrepreneurship/Placement Proficiency award. Millican designed, raised money and coordinated the construction of a pocket park behind the Decatur Visitors Center.

The Decatur FFA Chapter was also recognized as a one-star program, an elite rating only obtained by 2 percent of FFA chapters nationwide.

But the program is far from a one-year-wonder. It has brought home numerous state and national awards over the past several years.

Schools have discovered that success breeds success, and students are drawn to a program that has a history of winning.

“If you’ll remember, we added a third ag teacher two years ago,” Superintendent Rod Townsend reminded the board. “And at the time, each teacher had about 140 kids. We added a third one, and that year every ag teacher had 140, and one ag teacher had 150.

“I thought we would reduce the size of some of those classes, but it didn’t work that way. We just picked up that many more students. If you grow just a little bit more, you’re going to be looking at adding a fourth ag teacher.”

More students mean more projects.

“You are completely full at that ag barn,” Townsend said.

Board members viewed a possible floor plan with space for an increased number of pens for animals. Townsend said he believes such a facility could be built for $750,000 to $800,000.

Architect Kevin Smith, president of Claycomb Associates, was in attendance and said he would try to get cost estimates and have them ready for the board to review at the December school board meeting.

The ag students weren’t the only group recognized Monday. The boys and girls cross country teams were also honored for their recent success at the state meet. Taylor Clayton won the state title, and his team finished eighth. The girls team finished second.

Young Elementary kindergarten teacher Angie Taylor was honored as educator of the month, and Patti Rivera at Rann Elementary was recognized as support staff employee of the month.

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