Ag instruction likely on horizon for Arkadelphia schools

The Future Farmers of America emblem and jacket could eventually be worn by students at Arkadelphia High School as district and community leaders prepare to launch agricultural instruction in coming semesters. | Shutterstock image

Arkadelphia Public Schools may soon morph part of its curriculum to include agricultural instruction


There may be a Future Farmers of America club and associated courses soon at Arkadelphia Public Schools, based on preliminary talks Tuesday by Superintendent Nikki Thomas to the school board.

Discussion came up at the board’s agenda planning session for the regular October school board meeting. It will be at that Oct. 17 meeting that the school board will hear an instructional report from April Shepherd about career training for agricultural purposes.

Thomas made it clear that the ag instruction wouldn’t include plant and animal sciences — at least not in the beginning — but rather for career training for machinery, such as wood shop and welding.

Shelley Short, CEO of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance, has helped to spearhead the effort to launch agriculture-based instruction, Thomas noted, echoing that offering agriculture-based instruction would be a “pathway” for students to learn job skills essential to the community.

Grants would cover some 90% of the funding needed to start up an agriculture program, Thomas said, and Short has spoken with several business and industries that signaled financial support for the program.  Initially, all the district will need to fund is staffing for the program. 

School board members Gina White and Matt Johnson applauded the news. “We’ve tried for years now” to begin agriculture instruction, White said. “I’ve asked about FAA ever since I came on the board. it’s been a question I have posed over and over.”

More details about the program will be discussed at the Oct. 17 public meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. in the upstairs conference room of Dawson Building #3, 700 Clinton St. in downtown Arkadelphia.

In other business, the school board approved a change to the bus driver salary schedule to include time paid for waiting at out-of-town activities. Prior to the decision, bus drivers were paid only for the time spent driving to after-school events. The new rate offers $19.06/hour for driving time and $12.33/hour for waiting time. The new rate was apparently a compromise between a Professional Personnel Leadership committee and bus drivers, who reportedly wanted $20/hour for gate-to-gate time but were “happy” with the final proposal.