By: Greg Beard, California Department of Education, South Coast Region Supervisor
It is time to stop, look, and reassess where you are and realize you are there because of who you are! Of course, you feel as though you are sitting in your classroom being an effective teacher. But, ask yourself, are you content with the path in which you and your department are heading?
Before you so quickly agree, think what would happen if you had a major catastrophe within your program. A disaster could be one that affects significant funding, a reduction of staff, the elimination of SAE periods, or even stopping your year-round contracts. Of course, one obvious solution would be to call your Regional Supervisor. Fully understood, after all, that is what our job is all about:helping agriculture programs succeed!
As I write this article, I think it is important to stress how my colleagues and I can tackle and solve several issues, but there are some that are out of our control and jurisdiction that you must handle alone. Sure, we can make our recommendations, but when “reality” talks, your district and the major decision makers on your campus are the ones who make those crucial decisions affecting your professional future. Please understand we can only address technical issues, not personnel issues.
The time to act is now! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our professional life ahead is not always going to be easy for any of us, despite the quality of agriculture programs we think we have. And, while you ask yourself “am I ready for what could be the ‘snowball’ from hell?” If you don’t have a strong, and I mean powerful, Advisory Committee in place – you’re not. You are where you are, because of who you are! If you have not moved forward and planned ahead with an Advisory Committee that fulfills all of Criteria 6C on the AIG Checklist, you will be where you are, because of what you didn’t do!
Yes, we have some strong Advisory Committees out there and those with them in place have no sympathy for the others who don’t. They don’t have sympathy because they know, first-hand, how hard they work at maintaining an effective Committee and the important role they play in saving their program from ‘outside enemies.’ Unfortunately, for a significant number of California Agriculture Education programs, the Advisory Committee remains the same – a handful of individuals who show up, maybe twice a year, in a deserted classroom, nod their heads in agreement to report after report on the events of the agriculture/FFA program and enjoy an incredible meal (if they are lucky!).If you are a program who has an Advisory Committee like that, or one that does not exist at all, I’ve got a few ideas for you to implement and do it right!
Your Advisory Committee members need to be major players in the community whom others respect, listen to, follow and firmly believe in you and the direction the program is moving. They must be committed to serving, making a difference in the program, and have a reason to work on the students and program’s behalf. You can’t get this allegiance overnight! Communication must be on-going.Take a look at how your District Superintendent utilizes his/her Board members to their advantage. Mimic his or her methods of communication and empowering decision making. The Superintendent accommodates the School Board members and keeps them informed. Just because your School Board meets bi-monthly does not mean that they speak with district officials for four to six hours a month and that is it.
When you are done with your Advisory Committee meetings, keep them informed, provide them with updates on district, school, and departmental matters affecting the longevity of the program. Get them to your monthly local or sectional activities and don’t be afraid or intimidated to have them in attendance. I realize the time away from their personal and professional responsibilities is limited, but capitalize on it when they are available. Knowledge is power and the more they know, the stronger they are in your community while at social gatherings with their peers, while attending lunch meetings or power breakfasts with their colleagues discussing the “educational happenings” within their community. You must cultivate the power and harvest it from time to time.
When the time comes, and I hope it never does, who will really fight for you? Do you have six strong individuals who when they speak, the ground beneath them shakes, and others fall to their knees? That is the true power of an Advisory Committee. When you have that, you know that you have the community and the industry behind you in the challenge that lies ahead.
Now, don’t anyone think that I have based my assessments of California’s Agricultural Education programs on my affiliation with the South Coast Region programs just because I serve as their Supervisor. That thought is further from the truth and I am embarrassed for you if you thought that. If you take the time to develop an effective Advisory Committee, or already have one in place and implemented, when the dust flies within your district, and you know it does and always will, you will know: WHERE YOU ARE IS BECAUSE OF WHO YOU ARE!
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/