Despite requests to further investigate issues at the Corcoran High School agriculture department, some involving staff, the school board last week accepted the resignation of a second department teacher. The decision came after several people attending the meeting spoke out in favor of the department and its teachers.
Naylon said she feared the leadership, their bullying attacks, constant lying and methods of undermining Naylon and her program. She added that she did not personally appear before the board because she feared the tactics of CHS Principal Antonia Stone. However, she said, she was open to options other than resignation.
The board initially heard a motion to table the resignation, pending further information, but it died for lack of a second. Trustee Karen Frey then moved to accept the resignation, got a second from Trustee Robert Alcorn, and the measure passed on a 3-2 vote, with Bob Toney also approving. Trustees Patty Robertson and Sam Ramirez voted against the measure.
“I feel the board had no choice but to move forward once the resignation was submitted,” Frey said. “I regretfully accepted it.”
The resignations of two of the CHS ag department teachers has brought into high relief sordid conditions at the high school ag farm. The facility, located on Ottawa Ave., is in the process of receiving some much-needed repair and maintenance from the school district.
Superintendent Rich Merlo said the district is committed to the ag program and a recent district “position statement” indicated the district has put more than $100,000 over and above the ag department budget into “facility improvements and costs in the ag farm over the past two years alone.” He recently highlighted actions including new fencing and said heating and electrical improvements were being addressed.
Bathrooms at the farm will be addressed and pests (birds) have been removed from the sheep area; hog pens will benefit from heating and additional lighting. Water and power will be added to the pheasant area.
The improvements on the district’s part accompany work completed by the ag department itself, as well as generous donations. The department has received a new small trailer, had its large trailer refurbished and received the donation of a truck. It has received $5,000 in grants and several donations of seed to spur planting. Naylon and Jon Spreng, who resigned a few weeks ago, worked many hours over their contracted hours—as do many teachers in the ag field—accounting for tens of thousands of dollars. That does not include their “out of pocket” expenses, another act of doing business for students experienced by many teachers.
The donations for different crops at the farm are tallied at over $61,000 for the last school year.
The Journal has compiled the following timeline regarding high school ag farm issues and work:
–2015: In September, ag advisory committee members met with site and district administration and had discussion regarding safety and security at the school farm, also addressing need for additional lighting, fence repair and adding security cameras. A second meeting addresses safety and security on farm site and in shops.
–2016: In the spring, a small farm improvement meeting with administration addresses removal of scrap metal, pest and weed issues and electrical needs in all barns, specifically lamb and hog barns. The school board also visited the small farm for a site tour. In the fall, two advisory council meetings, one on the farm site, to discuss now major issues on the farm. Ag department submitted several work orders for ag farm, not all completed. Once again, specific concerns with pests and electrical system.
(It should be noted: hogs diagnosed with salmonella alleged traced back to birds).
–Time line unclear: Meeting regarding the need for updated fencing to block off the back portion of the farm. Ag department paid for new fence on east side of small farm, maintenance paid for new gates, but not enough money to replace back fence.
–2017: In the spring, the scrap metal and old grain bin were removed by Circle T Farms. Increase in bird pest issues reported—ag department reportedly informed that pests were ag department’s problem to fix. At another spring meeting, electrical once again discussed, along with farming with students, security and safety. In the fall, the advisory committee meeting addressed multiple issues on both farms; electrical still a major issue, as is addressing pests (birds). In the late fall, school board makes another tour—notices many extension cords being used at small farm site and disrepair of facilities.