Harman students want program saved

Vocational Agriculture students at Harman School spoke out against the possibility of the program being eliminated during Monday’s Randolph County Board of Education meeting.

The Harman Vocational Agriculture teacher, Donley Teter, retired after the school year, and no replacement has been named to that position, nor has the job listing been posted.

Board members did not respond after the students spoke Monday.

Asked about the issue after the meeting, Randolph County School Interim Superintendent Terry George stated that, “There has been no action on that issue. It was not on the agenda.”

Bryan Roy, who will be a senior in the fall, said he was speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Harman School Agriculture class.

“I just returned from a week at West Virginia Mountaineer Boys State,” Roy said. “I heard when I came back that Harman is losing another program. I have learned during the last week how our state government works. The main thing I have learned is if you don’t work together, nothing will get accomplished.

“Harman students have always been on the last of the list to receive what they need,” Roy. “We have a teacher retire and we lose a program. We need repairs and other schools come first. Why don’t we rate as high as the other schools in the county?

“I hope you will reconsider your choice and allow Harman School to keep their Vo Ag group.”

Zack Roy, who will be in 8th grade in the fall, also spoke to the board.

“My brother has worked very hard these last few years because of his life goal after high school graduation,” he said. “He has been advancing and has been taking advanced placement classes this year. He has also been in the agriculture classes since he was able to take them.

“It is unfair for him to worry about his classes his senior year,” Zack Roy said. “He has focused his whole life and it is unfair for him to worry that the classes won’t be there. The only thing he should worry about this year is me aggravating him.

“Some seniors have already sent out applications for colleges,” Zack Roy said. “Students should not have to choose when it comes to education. We should have all of the opportunities the others have, no matter how big or small their school is.”

Ethan Fortney, who will be a senior next year, spoke about what the program meant to him.

“I have been told the Ag program will be removed for the next year,” Fortney said. “I have struggled through the last few years of school. Once I got into the Vo-Ag classes, they helped me out a lot. I have learned a lot of skills that I can use on a day-to-day basis.”

Christopher Varner , who will be a junior, talked about how the program prepares teens for the future.

“Ag classes are essential for economic growth,” Varner said. “Who fixes your cars or grows the food you eat? Kids with vocational agricultural experience do.

“Did you even try to find a person to replace that position?” Varner asked. “Our Ag class put up blinds and white boards at the school. This saved you money.”

Dalton Mullenex, Harman’s student representative to the board, also spoke about the potential loss of the program.

“Harman’s Vo-Ag program has had many successful graduates throughout the years, one being my mother,” he said. “Many of our graduates use the skills they learned in Vo-Ag on the family farm. Many use their skills in fields such as construction, pipe-fitting and union employment.

“The class of 2012 had one half of the students as completers in the Vo Ag program,” Mullenex said.

In January 2012, the Randolph County Board of Education announced the school system would not call for a reduction in forces proposal to eliminate the Vocational Agriculture program in Elkins High School, Tygarts Valley High School and Harman School, as had been planned. The teachers involved agreed to contracts under which they would work fewer days in the summer.

In December 2012, the three high school Vocational Agriculture instructors spoke with board members again, updating the officials on the positive outcomes of their programs.

The possibility of eliminating the Vocational Agriculture program in any of the schools has not been discussed during a Randolph Board of Education meeting this year.

Also during Monday’s meeting:

  • The Randolph County Association of Retired School Employees provided a reception for those retiring from the school system .

Retirees honored by Randolph County Board of Education members include Wilbur Armentrout, Rosalie Martin, Gayle Walden, Helen Lewis, Elizabeth Riggleman, Deborah Wamsley, Rella Mills, Carol Teter, Richie Shiflett, Gail Sinsel, Mary K. Coontz, Donna Hamrick, Lorrayne Corley, Bradley Phillips, Sarah Peck-Basil, Donley Teter, Della O’Kernick, Jean Schmidt, Debbie Vanbrunt, Kathy Brake and Helen Walden.

“Tonight we have the opportunity to do something very special,” said Pam Hewitt, assistant superintendent of Randolph County Schools. “We are recognizing years of service of our employees who will be or who have recently retired.

“Today, out of curiosity we did the math and determined that with the folks that are leaving us this year, including seven service employees and 16 professional employees, we have 625 years of experience leaving Randolph County this year,” she said. “Now, that’s pretty impressive when you think about that.

“We just want to thank you for the work you have done for the students of Randolph County over the years,”Hewitt said. “You have made such a difference and you will be missed. But at the same time, we wish you the very best as you enter into your retirement.”