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Pitman High FFA students seek regrowth
Viticulture was one of the agriculture courses dropped by Pitman High School over the past few years. - photo by Journal file photo

While the school year may have ended two weeks ago, for 15 Pitman High School FFA students the time to fight for a better agriculture program at their school wasn’t over. The group, clad in their signature blue and gold FFA jackets, addressed the Turlock Unified School Board of Trustees Tuesday night, asking for more support for the fledgling Pitman ag program.

Tuesday was the second time that Pitman High FFA students had brought their concerns before the Board of Trustees. At the May 16 Board meeting, students spoke out about the negative impact felt from Pitman High dropping from three to two ag teachers this year and the inequality of ag programs in the district.

Pitman High has had to drop a number of courses over the past few years, went from three ag teachers to two and, with the resignation of one of those teachers, PHS students are entering fair season with one FFA advisor — while Turlock High maintains five ag teachers/FFA advisors.

A presentation by the District’s new Career Technical Education and Program Equity Director David Lattig showed a decrease over the past four years in the number of students interested in taking agricultural courses at the school and the resulting drop of classes being offered.

Lattig, as well as the Board, encouraged the Pitman High FFA students to help grow more interest in the ag program.

 “It is brutal to compete, as far as an elected program versus a required class. And as a teacher who has been in that position before, each time at the end of the year when we try to determine our numbers, it was always killing us that we had to fight against classes that were filled versus classes that we had to recruit. But that’s the nature of the animal. We need to work real hard, and I would encourage especially our students, not only to educate the adults in this district, but also the other students about the advantages of the program. You’re the best ambassadors that we have,” said Trustee Anthony Silva, a former Turlock High ag teacher and FFA advisor.

Along with emphasizing the need for recruitment for the ag program, Lattig announced that the school is going to use an increase in its Career Technical Education grant to fund a third ag teacher at Pitman for the next two academic years.

 “With the recent resignations of two ag teachers at Pitman High and the information presented here this evening, it is clear we’re at a point where difficult decisions need to be made. These states of transition are challenging, but they do provide us with opportunities to create new relationships and establish new practices that could potentially define the culture of the Pitman High School ag program,” said Lattig.

Pitman High students requested that the District seek out teachers for their program who are accredited to teach agriculture and would work well with their remaining FFA advisor, Luke Gocke. Incoming Pitman FFA President Carolyn Boster also requested the school’s administration allow them to once again include the entire student body during their annual FFA Day event, and not just the current ag students. She also listed a number of outreach efforts the FFA students are already involved in — from speaking at elementary and junior high school students to hosting booths at school carnivals and appreciation days for teachers.

 “Pitman students, the same passion that you’ve had here coming to these meetings you have to show the same passion telling your friends about this ag program, getting them in the classes because it’s really going to be your word that’s going to get them there,” said Trustee Ken Malech.