Agriscience will continue at Alcona High

LINCOLN – Despite budget issues, a popular FFA agriscience program at Alcona Community Schools will be continued this fall, Superintendent Shawn Thornton said during Monday’s school board meeting..

Thornton said the farm production class, which includes a maple syrup operation, livestock training and leadership classes, will remain in operation. Students who graduated from the program in the past, as well as other supporters, have vowed to keep the program going.

“They are all going to pitch in and make sure we are able to maintain all of those programs to the extent possible,” Thornton said.

Other popular programs such as the yearbook, advanced physical education, drama, CAD design, woodworking and language classes will continue.

“The overall budget efforts are to maintain one month of cash flow, so the school district will not have to borrow to make payroll,” Thornton said.

If a loan had to be taken out for the month, it would add costs because interest payments would be due. The district has been facing budget shortfalls since 2007, because of declining enrollment and a drop in funding from the state. However, it does receive 18 mills from county property owners.

The district will not know until later this summer how many new students will attend, especially kindergartners, Thornton said. Nor will they know how much money they will receive from the federal government to cover qualified expenses.

A special board of education session on the budget has been scheduled for June 24. The board also will discuss school bonds and assess how much money will be coming to the district. The state’s contribution is always an unknown, officials said.

To save money, the district will reshuffle some of its classes. This means one physical education professional will be laid off, Thornton said. Other professionals will be called back to replace retiring teachers and staff. Special education programs will be continued. The board approved Renee Rose be recalled to fill a special education teaching position.

In other changes, three sections of kindergarten will be reduced to two because federal money cannot be used to pay for them, she said. Class sizes for kindergarten through third grade will be kept in the mid to upper 20s; fourth grade and up will contain 30 to 32 students, with paraprofessionals helping out.

The school day will be set at seven hours, and the school year will be 170 days, generating 1,098 hours of class time so the school can continue to receive per-pupil funding.

In order to make sure students get enough required credits to graduate, 15 classes will be added, Thornton said. In another change, U.S. history and geography will be taught to ninth grade students and world history will be taught to 11th-graders.

In another action, the board went into a closed session for about 45 minutes to evaluate Thornton’s performance as superintendent. When completed, she was evaluated as highly effective and her contract was extended by one year.

Board President Mark Feldhiser said this translates to a 3.8 rating out of a possible of 4.

“As a board we are very happy with Shawn’s performance,” Feldhiser said. “She remains a strong leader for our district. Her strengths are leadership and management, decision making and student achievement.”

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.