Ag, food programs growing, board told

by Dave Cary Review Correspondent

PLYMOUTH - A project that is gathering steam as it goes in the Plymouth School District concerns dramatic expansion of the district’s greenhouse facilities -- and development of curriculum and activities to go along with it – as centerpiece of an even stronger educational effort in the food and agricultural science areas.

This area is much bigger than farming or growing things. In a briefing given the board last year, teacher Walter Taylor stressed opportunities in the agricultural-related fields, giving board members a handout that showed agricultural-related career pathways into fifteen distinct fields -- fields, not individual jobs. These jobs came through seven main portals – food processing, animals, plants, natural resources, agricultural business, power and structures, and environmental.

Other data Taylor supplied indicated that agriculture provides 8,500 (11percent) of the jobs in Sheboygan County 24.6percent of county’s total business sales ($3.27 billion). This provides 12.3percent of county’s total employee income, and contributes $49 million in taxes. The top industry sector was, not surprisingly, dairy, with horticulture showing $3 million in economic activity.

Taylor also cited Farm Bureau figures, which estimate that statewide some 354,000 jobs – 10percent of the total employment – are in these sectors, with almost half of that in management and business areas.

Board president Mark Rhyan said that a $300,000 donation from Acuity to the district Foundation in 2008 had spurred this project, though not immediately. Foundation members at the time had had no immediate plans for the funds and had ruled out dipping into the principal, nickeling it to death. Rhyan said that although this preserved the original amount of the gift, it kept it from making much of an impact on the district; in a good investment year the total might be $19,000, but in many years only about $5,000 was available.

With the recent aid of some Lakeland College students, who have been drafting a business plan for the Plymouth ag project, has come another suggestion: use $300,000 of the amount the foundation has to match donations that would be solicited into the greenhouse project. His was, the amount is doubled.

While showing enthusiasm for and acceptance of the project, board members were cautious about approving this step at this time. They wanted to see a more defi- nite plan first, not only figures but a sketch or two. Board member Bob Travis said he would like to see estimates on the impact the project would have on students.

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Riverview principal Chris Scudella, who directs the district’s summer school program, told the board that summer school was going smoothly although numbers seemed a little down from last year. Next year, she said, summer school would begin after the 4th of July and continue into the second week of August. The reasons, she said, were that it allowed more time for faculty preparation in June and July – and shortened the school-less period between the end of summer school and start of the regular school year.

The board approved the revised editions of the Riverview and Elementary school parents’ handbooks, the latter, it was said, containing very minimal changes from the previous edition and the former, none.

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Business manager Jon Miller reported that the impact of the recently-passed state budget will result in a 5.8percent levy increase next year which, he said was driven by revised state formulas, not by actions taken by the district.

The Englehardt Dairy, of Kewaskum, was awarded the district’s milk bid; Englehardt was the only company who bid on the contract.

Miller told the board the two major maintenance projects – a new boiler at Horizon Middle School and a roof section at the high school would be started soon. The roof will be done by the start of school, he said, while the boiler might extend into fall.

The board approved a request from Riverview Teacher Julie Overby to take 7th and 8th grade students to Washington D.C. the week of June 15, 2014.

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