Austin’s ag programs faces problems

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Why do some vocational-agriculture programs succeed and others fail?.

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Why do some vocational-agriculture programs succeed and others fail?

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Why does Southland Independent School District have a tradition of high quality instructors and Future Farmers of America advisers? Dwain Vangsness comes and stays. Leroy Swanson comes and stays. The program flourishes. Now, it is Kevin Brown, a hometown hero picking up the torch of the legacy for quality agriculture education in the Southland district.

The same can be said of the Hayfield and LeRoy-Ostrander Independent School Districts.

Frank Moon pushed the Hayfield High School program to a productive level of proficiency. When he retired, Nathan Thompson continued that push for excellence.

Richard Schaufler has created a high school agriculture education curriculum at LeRoy-Ostrander High School that is the envy of school districts everywhere. He also has created an FFA chapter with a national reputation for excellence.

Meanwhile, the largest school district in Mower County, the Austin Independent School District, languishes.

Donald Ritland was the last instructor/adviser to serve in double-digit figures. When he retired, a succession of instructors/advisers followed. Can you name them all?

Now, Roger Dvergsten is gone. His full-time position was reduced to a half-time position because of the school district’s budget crisis.

But, the student numbers weren’t there either to support full-time agriculture education programming.

Austin’s problems are strange.

At a time, when the national Council for Agriculture Education has identified the teacher shortage as a critical problem, the Austin school district doesn’t have enough students to support hiring a full-time teacher.

Many of the best agriculture education teachers are leaving the profession for other agricultural careers.

That wasn’t in Mr. Dvergsten’s plans when he came to Austin to teach.

Ironically, he has found a new agriculture education teaching position in southeast Minnesota, where there are enough student numbers to support a full-time position.

Rather than tweak an agriculture education program in the Austin school district to satisfy the whim and whimsy of the moment, maybe a hard look is needed and an answer to that simplest of questions with the most difficult of answers must be sought: Why?