September 2020 CDE Update: Welcome to 2020-2021

By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education, State FFA Advisor

As the 2020-2021 school year begins, I cannot help but think back to that September day in 1980 when I welcomed those first students into my classroom. I was a 120 pound 23-year-old who resembled the students more than the faculty. I can vividly remember shaking when I stood in front of the class to introduce myself and take attendance. I will not even pretend to remember what I taught that day, but I am sure it was not important or done very well.

Over the years, each opening day was met with enthusiasm and a keen interest in meeting those new students. The nervousness I encountered that first day continued each year. Even today when we roll around to September, or August now, I find myself anxious to start a new year.

I can only imagine how you are feeling this year. Not only are you welcoming in a new group of students, you are meeting them for the first time via a computer screen. Often I wonder if I am part of some science fiction movie in some alternate universe, waiting to awake from some odd dream. However, when I pinch myself, I realize that it is reality!

As each of you begin the new school year, I want to extend my personal thank you for choosing to be an agricultural teacher. There is no nobler profession than that of teaching, except, being a teacher of agriculture. The coming year will most certainly be filled with new experiences, some failures, many successes and a bucketful of memories.

If appropriate, raise your cup of coffee, your bottle of water, or your beverage of choice and let’s toast. “May 2020-2021 be a year where we embrace social gatherings, a time we build lasting relationships and when we can strive to be bigger than ourselves. May 2020-2021 be the year where you accomplish your goals and realize your dreams. May 2020-2021 be the year in which you realize your potential and when you become a mentor for others. May 2020-2021 be your YEAR!”

To the best teachers in the world, enjoy your chosen profession and greet each day with the nervousness and excitement you had that first day! Welcome to 2020-2021.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Agricultural Incentive Grant Updates

By: Hugh Mooney, Regional Supervisor, California Department of Education

As we begin a new school year, it is interesting to hear how agricultural teachers are dealing with the many unique challenges that the profession faces this year with all the uncertainty and politics related to COVID-19. In the Superior Region, we have schools that are fully open and schools that are limited to distance learning. This creates its own set of challenges. Like all challenges faced by the Agricultural Education profession, we will survive and likely be stronger when we can engage students in the many activities we know they love.

A challenge that I was tasked with was leading a process that will convert the Agricultural Incentive Grant from one funded based on inputs to one funded based on outputs. Hopefully you have heard about the direction we are moving from discussions in your regions. We also discussed this during the Secondary Division Session during the Virtual CATA Conference. I have been working with a committee of six (one from each region). The committee consists of Doug Sehnert, Lauren Peterson, Randy Mendes, Cali Griffin, Dick Piersma and Clay Freeman. This committee will assist with leading discussions at your region meetings.

We will be hosting some opportunities for you to participate in a Zoom discussion about the details of the future funding structure. I am not ready to set the dates, because I need to complete some discussions with AET, whom we will be gathering much of our data through. These statewide Zoom discussions will occur before the region meetings. There will be multiple opportunities to participate in the discussion via Zoom.

The funding will have several portions to it. There will be criteria that a program must meet to earn base funding. There will be additional funding available for programs that excel in classroom discussion, leadership development, SAE, and what we are currently calling Outstanding Program Bonus.

The base funding criteria include the following:

  1. Properly credentialed teachers. (Single Subject in Agriculture combined with an Agriculture Specialist Credential is preferred. CTE Credential with designation in Agriculture and/or credential earned from another state. Credentials from other states will need approval from state staff.)
  2. Each agricultural teacher has participated in a minimum of six approved professional development activities. (At least four must come from the list of items 2.a through 2.o. The Region Supervisor may approve additional activities in advance.)
  1. The program must have a minimum of a three-year course sequence.
  2. Evidence is provided that student participation in FFA and SAE components are graded as stated in California Education Code 52454. (Department policy exists identifying such grading policy.)
  3. The program offers at least one course that provides an alternative means for a student to meet graduation and/or UC, CSU admission.
  4. The chapter has a current FFA Constitution/By-Laws that includes a process that describes how chapter officers are selected. Members’ votes are used in the process to elect the Chapter Officers.
  5. The chapter has agendas and minutes to document at least six FFA Chapter meetings annually. 
  6. Agendas and minutes are provided for a minimum of two Agriculture Advisory Committee meetings annually.
  7. Base funding will be created by a formula that will factor the previous year’s data and the number of FTE Agricultural Education teachers at the site.

The current plan moving forward is as follows: 

Continue to discuss the plan with the profession through statewide Zoom meetings, region meetings and other opportunities for discussion. During the January State Staff Meeting, any needed revisions to the plan will be made and then it will be submitted to the California Department of Education for what may be an extended process to have the new funding model approved. It is our hope to use the 2021-2022 school year as a base. This will allow us to have a “normal” year to identify realistic levels of involvement in the quality criteria we have identified for funding. If all goes as planned this new funding model will be used for the 2022-2023 school year.

We want to be transparent in this transition to an output based funding model. There have been very limited changes to the funding model of the Agricultural Incentive Grant since its inception in 1983. This funding model I believe will be one that many in State Government will embrace. This could lead to additional funding opportunities.

I look forward to your questions.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

By: John Williams, CATA State Treasurer

In March our lives were turned upside down; lack of toilet paper and ground beef along with the loss of teaching in person. For many of us, the thought of not teaching in front of students, working with students on projects, or other aspects of our careers seemed like a bad dream. Although I do not teach in the secondary world anymore, one thing I always look forward to in my new role is hosting State Finals for the Small Engines and Farm Power Contests. I miss seeing all of the coaches from all over the state, some of which have become some of my closest friends. I look forward to the day when we can come back together at field days, conferences, and other activities to interact in person.  

The purpose of this article is not to bring back bad memories or frustrations, but to look at what we have done as educators. I remember when I was a credential student and I had a professor who preached that we needed to be open-minded and ready for the challenges and changes in teaching from year-to-year and to be prepared for the challenges every class period.  The terms improvise, adapt and overcome have been cemented in my mind since those days during my initial student teaching. In our current environment, we have so many unknowns. Some districts have opened, some have not. We have state and local governments and health organizations constantly making changes and decisions, sometimes it’s hard to follow (I gave up trying to keep up with all of that and have been focusing on myself and family). What we do know, is that we are educators, we have a passion for agriculture and we have a passion for student success.  

Life may have given us lemons, but I am proud to say that teachers have very much turned those lemons into lemonade. When the shutdown started, I saw teachers go into the improvise phase to work towards some sort of model of distant learning. Zoom sessions were taking place in our state and regions to offer support, collaboration and new ideas. We as a collective group worked towards making each other better with ideas on how to address distant learning in a “hands-on” curriculum. We as agriculture teachers answered the call to improvise, in collaboration with state staff, governing board and other committees, we planned LDE’s, CDE’s and CATA Summer Conference. There were FFA State Officer elections, a talent program, delegate work, and a virtual state conference. Was it all perfect? No, not at all, but it was all very well done and it gave our association and students memories and opportunities.  

As we moved into the end of the school year and into summer, we had the opportunity to recharge our batteries. Some schools were planning on coming back to in person learning, our governor may have changed those plans, and so now, we have had the time to adapt.  New technologies being used, new ideas being thought of and a new school year has just begun. From improvising in the spring, we have had the time to adapt our lives, our teaching, and technological capabilities to serve our students. We no longer have to remember what a “Zoom” session is, it has been embedded in our lives now (I wish I would have invested in Zoom back in January). Our lives have adapted to the pandemic, to distance learning, and how we do our jobs. This will make us stronger in the future and will give us many tools that we did not know we had access to. This adaptation has not been easy for many or all of us, but it is growth, and I am sure we can all agree that we strive to grow as better people, better teachers and better leaders.  

In the timeline since March, we have improvised and adapted, the next question is: “How will you overcome?” This is something we all need to think about. I would like to say that this will all be over soon, but the reality is, it will still be a while. So now there will be new obstacles that we have to overcome. The new challenges may be easily seen, and some will be hidden until the last minute. We have shown that we can take on adversity, now it is time to show we can overcome adversity. When this pandemic is over, will you be able to say, “I did everything I could to be a better person, better teacher and better servant?” I hope you can.The work we all have done in this dark time has been special and we should all feel proud, but there is always more work to do both in our personal lives and professional lives, and I hope that you continue to overcome all of the challenges you face this year. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

The Need for a Sunday Drive

By: Travis Wyrick, Visalia Technical Early College

The day is Sunday and I showed up to school to run the water in our livestock pastures. It is an early morning and starting the water doesn’t take long. So, by 7:30 a.m., I found myself ready to leave campus, but not ready to go home. 

Luckily I saw a sign that read “Yard Sale.”

I have always been up for a good yard sale, because I can find a good deal on tools. So I was off, curious as to what I might find, but no luck: just baby clothes. Then in the distance I saw another sign, “Yard Sale.” This continued for hours as I drove around Visalia, never getting out of the car, but bouncing from community yard sale to community yard sale. I was struck, not by what was being sold or the number of yard sales, but by the communities, the streets, the houses and areas I was driving into.

See, I don’t have a reason to drive down a lot of subdivision streets and country roads. Most of the time a highway will get me almost there just fine. And since COVID-19, I can’t really visit student projects either. That means I don’t have a reason to be there, until NOW. Thank you yard sales. This may have been the first time in months that my mind switched from “What am I going to do for class?” and over to “What are my students going through?” 

It was on this drive that I could tell, some families were having their annual yard sales and just cleaning out space. Tables with outgrown children’s clothes and boxes of old DVDs and movies. Those houses were organized and had a structure, it wasn’t their first sale. 

Other families were selling items to make it by. I could see a car or truck packed full of boxes ready to move. The items for sale were too big, too bulky and couldn’t fit. Even from the street you could tell that something in that household’s life had changed and a decision had to be made.

Other homes were having estate sales and auctions. I like to hope it was for an elderly family member and they were just downsizing. Yet your mind wonders if someone had passed due to COVID-19 and this family is grieving. I could have gone in and explored more, but I kept my distance and stayed in the car; guess that is a sign of the times. Still, it was hard not to see that somewhere in this Sunday drive are my students going through something. Any one of the many houses I passed could have been theirs, and their yard sale could be next weekend.

I needed to kill some time to see what was all around me, and I bet I’m not alone. COVID-19 has shaken up every corner of our lives and we are all scrambling to make things happen. It’s hard to NOT put the blinders on and take it one step at a time, but blinders make us lose perspective.      

So here is the challenge, go for a Sunday Drive. Head out into the country roads and into the residential areas. You might be surprised with what you find. Stay safe.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Sacramento Scene, September 2020

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Sacramento Scene

The Legislative session came to an end on Monday, August 31, in the early morning hours. Similar to the rest of 2020, the closing day in the capitol was surreal. In the California Senate, only one member of the Republican Caucus was on the floor for the last week. The rest of the Caucus was in quarantine after being exposed to a member with COVID-19. With the majority of the Senate Republicans operating, the pace of remote proceedings slowed significantly. Just like all virtual meetings, issues with muting, open mics and lag plagued the session. Tempers flared at numerous points in the session. The virtual participants were switched from open mics to moderated mics, requiring members to “virtually raise their hand” to have their mics unmuted from the Senate Chamber.  

Most of the bills that were passed the last evening of session centered around tenant eviction relief, police reform, COVID-19 regulations, exemptions from AB-5, flavored tobacco and wild fire bills.

The following California bills related to education that were processed the last month of the session:

  • AB-1384 – COVID Liability Limitations for School Districts – Bill failed to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • AB-1460 – CSU Ethnic Studies Graduation requirement for the freshman class of 2021-22. Bill was signed into law.
  • AB-331 – High School Ethnic Studies graduation requirement for the class of 2030. Bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The following are federal bills that relate to agricultural education in California:

  • H.R. 7745 – Protecting Fairs During COVID Act – $5 billion for fair funding for 2020 and 2021
  • H.R. 7883 – Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act – $500 million for fair funding for 2020

Click on the links below to support these federal bills to bring COVID relief to California Fairs and Expositions;

Need Help Finding your Representatives? Please use these resources listed below:

Cal Ag Plates “Everyone Give One”

Since its inception, the Cal Ag Plate program has generated over $1.5 million that goes directly to FFA student programs. These funds directly reduced the cost for students and increased access. These funds were used in 2019 and 2020 to fund the following initiatives:

  • AET Recordbooks = $95,285
  • Advanced Leadership Academy Conference (ALA) = $3,840
  • CalAgEd Website = $21,000
  • Greenhand Conference (GLC) = $4,275
  • FFA Promotions/State Conference posters, programs, videos = $33,500
  • Sacramento Leadership Experience = $27,955

CATA members made this program happen by giving away 7,500 plates five years ago. This program would not be a reality without us. The program needs CATA once again. The number of plates has fallen below the 7,500 threshold, and more plates need to be on the road to sustain the program. If each CATA member gave away one plate annually, we could maintain and grow the program indefinitely. Please help by clicking on this link to get the form filled out, signed, and mailed back to the FFA Center. California FFA will purchase the plate, and you will help FFA students statewide for years to come. It would benefit our students if we all had plates on our cars, trucks and trailers. Click on the download button below to fill out the form.

The recent California fires have impacted many of the students, teachers and communities of agriculture education. Our hearts and thoughts go out to those individuals dealing with yet another challenge in 2020. The California Teachers Association has set up a Disaster Relief Fund to assist members in the wildfires’ wake. Click Here for more information.

I have virtually attended dozens of Sectional CATA meetings over the last several weeks. I am continuously amazed by your resilience, professionalism, creativity and dedication to students. Ag students need their Ag teachers more than ever as they struggle for a reason to connect to school and stay motivated to learn. The additional hours to create engaging and exciting lessons in a two-dimensional world do pay off. In my cooperating teacher’s immortal words, “thank you for what you do for kids.”

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Matt Patton, Executive Director, California Agricultural Teachers’ Assn.mpatton@calagteachers.org209 744-1605

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit