A group of parents and students at Worcester Central School is concerned the end may be nigh for the school's FFA program.
The school is considering laying off the agriculture and technology teacher who serves as the group's adviser, according to parents and students. The students have also been ordered by the school to stop selling raffle tickets to help fund their trip to the state FFA convention in May.
Signs have sprung up in the Worcester area urging residents to "Take back our school. Save our future."
Worcester Superintendent Gary Kuch confirmed Thursday the school board is planning on cutting 3.5 full-time staff positions and some programming in its 2009-10 budget.
"That's been part of the proposal," Kuch said.
But he would not identify which positions or programs would be cut. The board is expected to adopt a budget April 23 that will then be put to voters on May 19.
The school board last year determined that extracurricular groups could not take more than two field trips in a school year. That led to the denial of FFA's request to attend the state convention because it had already taken field trips, said Kuch, who became superintendent in January.
"Upon their decision to not allow the trip, we formed an alumni group to raise funds for these kids to go to the New York State FFA Convention," said George Mravlja, a parent and school board candidate. "There are a number of kids that need to go to this convention for their Empire Degrees, which in turn translate to scholarships."
Raffle deemed illegal by state
The group began raising money on its own through a Cub Cadet lawn tractor raffle.
Recently, Kuch said, the school was contacted by a state gambling and wagering official who advised the activity was illegal because the group was not a registered charitable organization.
"I'm assuming there was some contact made (with the state) by some member of the community," Kuch said.
The FFA is also not being singled out, he said, noting that all other raffles and fundraising activities that do not meet state law will not be allowed.
Kuch said he is open to suggestions about how the group can attend its convention.
"I feel badly," he said.
Ag and technology teacher Karen LaBombard restarted the school's FFA program when she was hired in 2005. The group has won awards and attended three national conventions.
Because the national FFA organization requires students to take an agricultural class, the loss of the school's agriculture and technology program would mean the end of FFA, said student Samantha Branigan, 15.
There are about 90 students in grades 5 through 12 in FFA, said Branigan, who is the group's treasurer this year.
"This is something we do that we are really passionate about," she said Thursday.
Kuch said the school is faced with hard financial decisions given the "tough economic times."
The national FFA organization was started in 1928 as the Future Farmers of America. It changed its name in 1988 to reflect more diversified interests, according to the organization's website.
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