School board splits decision on FFA trip

Indecision may lead to junior high students going to Indianapolis

Staff writer

USD 398 Board of Education was split on a vote to send Peabody-Burns Junior High students to the National FFA convention Oct. 26 in Indianapolis.

Only Peabody-Burns High School students had been allowed to attend the convention before. It was the argument of PBHS alumni president Annette Weems that allowing junior high students to attend the event would foster a higher level of interest in FFA. Weems and her husband Darren said there have been fewer state farmers from the PBHS FFA organization in the previous few years, although their daughter, senior Ashley Weems, was a state farmer this past year.

Ashley Weems would be one of four high school students scheduled to attend the national convention this year. With the week of the convention coinciding with the senior night football game against Lebo Oct. 25, many PBHS students have expressed that they would rather skip the national convention.

Four junior high FFA-involved students, three eighth grade girls and a seventh grade boy, were interested in going to the national convention. One of the girls is involved enough in FFA that she breeds a unique breed of pig, Annette Weems said. She even sold one of the pigs to a zoo. Devin Gaines was the high person in sales for FFA students in all levels of PBHS schools. Jennifer and Jared Gaines volunteered to be sponsors for the trip, giving the students three adult advisers including vocational agriculture teacher Ryan Panko.

Superintendent Ron Traxson gave Annette Weems a list of requirements. Students had to have a 3.0 GPA, be involved in FFA for at least a year, and have parent permission. Despite the majority of students meeting the requirements, Traxson was still concerned with mixing junior high students with high school seniors. Even though he said this group of students could be a special case, he was also afraid of setting a precedent.

Board member Julie Ensminger stoutly agreed and made a motion to not allow PBJHS students to make the trip. Tony Zappone tentatively voted with her. Shayla Clark was the most adamant board member on the other side of the argument. She and Bruce Burke voted against the motion. Board President Terry Eberhart broke the tie by abstaining.

However, this was not a decision to allow the students to go on the trip. The board decided not to vote again but to give Traxson the authority to set up an extensive list of requirements with Annette Weems. If the students do not meet those requirements he has the authority to bar them from the trip. The PBJHS students would have to register for hotel rooms to meet an early deadline for the convention but the board decided vote again on the issue at the Oct. 15 meeting.

The board approved a trip for the Adventure Club. Club organizer Gene Green showed pictures from the trip to Colorado this past summer where students kayaked and mountain biked.

He said the best part of the trip was learning more about students. He pointed out that one student was deathly afraid of heights and another of water.

“It was fun watching them overcome those fears,” Green said. “It touches me every time I go.”

In other business:

  • Traxson gave an enrollment update to the board. The total head count for the district is 277 students with a full-time equivalents of 279. There are 110 students at PBHS, 66 students at PBJHS, and 101 at Peabody-Burns Elementary School.
  • Traxson told the board he would attend the Kansas Association of School Boards fall regional meeting and educational summit Sept. 27 in Valley Center. Eberhard and Zappone committed to a trip to Topeka Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 for the KASB convention. Zappone was tasked with being the USD 398 delegate who votes.
  • Part of PBES principal’s Ken Parry report were announcements of Grandparents Day on Sept. 19, where grandparents eat lunch with students, and flu shots for the school on Sept. 26. Parry also told the board about a Rural Education Achievement Program grant of over $17,000 PBES will receive.
  • Traxson reported that Don Mackey is no longer interested in the truck being worked on by a PBHS automotive class.
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