Martinsburg High's FFA in need of teacher

Students say revolving door of advisers is having effect

Students say revolving door of advisers is having effect

January 29, 2008|MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Six teachers and six years later, the officers of Martinsburg High School's FFA chapter are fed up with not having a certified agriculture instructor and advisor.

Jeremy Everson, 18, Beth Morgan, 16, Jesica Ware, 17, and Tyler Cloud, 17, politely told the Berkeley County Board of Education as much Monday night in a 2 1/2-page speech they prepared and took turns reading.

"Each teacher has brought new opportunities and ideas, but has left us with frustration and confusion," said Ware, the chapter's treasurer. "The constant changing of advisers is affecting students and the program greatly."

Two substitutes taught for about a month each this academic year before they left and a "permanent substitute" now is filling the post for the chapter, which the officers said had 30 members.


Last week, the officers said they spoke to the Berkeley County Farm Bureau and members of that organization joined the students for their presentation Monday, which was warmly received by the board.

Superintendent Manny Arvon said the FFA chapter's plight was "just another example" of the county's struggle to retain certified teachers with pay levels outpaced by neighboring states.

He said the school board hired close to 1,000 teachers in the last five years and 58 percent of the staff now has fewer than five years of experience.

"I'm very frustrated as the superintendent. ... Someone is going to have to have to get their head out of the sand in Charleston," Arvon said.

He reported that progress was being made on a school-aid funding bill that has yet to be introduced, but contained language that would help the school district.

Earlier, he said he was always hopeful that state lawmakers would step up and help resolve what he described as a "crisis" that has been allowed to go on and on.

Rick Deuell, the school district's assistant superintendent for human resources, told the FFA officers that the administration had "leads" on two certified instructors and were willing to pay someone from the community to help them with FFA, if not the course work.

"We're going to do everything we can to help you," Deuell said.

In giving his portion of the speech, Cloud, the FFA chapter's sentinel, said the group had a chapter member obtain an American degree for the first time at MHS since 1985. It is the highest degree one can receive in FFA.

"With so many advisers, it makes obtaining degrees complicated," Cloud said.

"The students trying to get their state degrees have gone through many struggles to sort things out," he said.

Everson, the chapter's president, said he realized any hiring likely wouldn't benefit him very much, since he soon would be graduating.

"We realize it may not be instant, but we are looking out for the future of the program and the future members," he concluded.

Deuell said the county's other high schools have been fortunate in retaining their agriculture education teachers, who are not plentiful even without a competitive hiring environment.

Deuell said there is generally more turnover at the high school level, where there are more specialty instructors and large enrollments are not attractive to teachers. There are more than 1,800 students enrolled at MHS, Deuell said.

Founded in 1928, the National FFA Organization, formerly Future Farmers of America, claims a little more 500,000 members, according to its Web site.

More information about FFA is available on the Internet at

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