S-O School Board rescinds decision to cut ag instructor’s contractSIBLEY, Iowa — In an unanticipated change of direction, the Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board Wednesday night rescinded a motion from its mid-April meeting to cut two weeks from the extended summer contract for high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Mike Earll.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
SIBLEY, Iowa — In an unanticipated change of direction, the Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board Wednesday night rescinded a motion from its mid-April meeting to cut two weeks from the extended summer contract for high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Mike Earll.
The action was taken during a public hearing requested by Earll, who was blindsided by the vote taken during the April meeting. That meeting was conducted primarily to discuss the closing of the Ocheyedan school, and Earll was there as an interested community resident. He said he was also concerned about an agenda item to cut staff from the district’s music program. No one had spoken to him about a potential cut in his hours prior to that public meeting.
At Wednesday’s hearing, S-O School superintendent Jeff Herzberg addressed Earll and the nearly 70 former and current students, parents and community members who gathered inside the high school auditorium in Sibley to start the meeting, saying that he was requesting the motion be rescinded. He said that the action taken by the board in April has created a large amount of misinformation, politics and “an incredible amount of division in a place that cannot survive any further division.”
Herzberg said he wasn’t prepared for the personal attacks and subtle hint of threats or intimidation toward him, his family and school board members.
“Tonight I’m choosing to do what is right for the people sitting at this table (because of) the personal nature this situation has taken on,” Herzberg said.
He said he feared board members would be treated to the personal attacks he has endured in recent weeks and was concerned for those who may have felt repercussions as a result of their vote.
Before the board officially moved to rescind the cut in Earll’s contract, the ag teacher was given an opportunity to address the board and those in the audience.
While thanking the board for coming together for the public hearing, Earll criticized administration for its poor handling of the matter.
“As employees, we’re expected to — and I think we should — treat our students with respect and appreciation,” Earll told the board. “That same respect should be shown to employees.”
Earll has taught agriculture education in the northwest Iowa school district for 29 years, advising an FFA chapter that is the third largest in the state of Iowa. He is the only teacher in the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District who has a 12-week extended summer contract.
Earll told the board members their action wasn’t about the money — it was about the way people are treated. He said that had the board opted to keep the cut in place, he still would have put in the time.
Earll said his agriculture and FFA students show leadership, people skills and confidence. They’re involved in community service, and they are the greatest fundraisers the school has.
Earll provided board members with a packet filled with information about the ag program, including the amount of time he spends doing his job. Between classroom hours, FFA activities and his adult agriculture education program, Earll accumulated 971.75 hours of unpaid work between July 2008 and April 26.