Derry Area School District may grow agricultural, horticultural programs |

Derry Area School District may grow agricultural, horticultural programs

Jeff Himler

Derry Area School District is considering expanding its agricultural and horticultural programs, along with career options for students.

To carry out the plan, the district may need to hire an instructor.

In an informational presentation at the school board’s Thursday meeting, high school principal Kathy Perry said administrators would like to gradually adopt the curriculum for agricultural science education, or CASE, which follows national standards and offers up to 10 courses of study.

In addition to an introductory course, the curriculum could provide instruction in such areas as natural resources and ecology; animal and plant biotechnology; food science and safety; agricultural power and technology; agricultural research and development; and animal and plant sciences.

Perry said the goal is to provide “more pathways for students so they can be employable.”

“This was not to replace what we’re doing; it’s to add to it,” agricultural instructor Roy Campbell said.

Campbell said students would develop portfolios of their work. “We’re trying to mirror what the industry does,” he said.

Perry said Derry Area has 151 agricultural and horticultural course enrollments in grades 9-12, including students who are taking more than one course.

Along with the switch to the CASE curriculum, she said, the district would look to “get some agricultural experience back into the middle school,” so that students could decide sooner which field they want to pursue. Campbell said there would be the possibility of starting a middle school FFA group to supplement the chapter at the high school.

A benefit of the CASE curriculum, Perry said, is that it incorporates highly desired skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Perry said the school hopes to send Campbell to Penn State next summer to become certified in the introductory CASE course, with the intent of gradually introducing other courses.

But Superintendent David Welling told the board that a single instructor won’t be sufficient to fully develop the new curriculum.

“To really do this right, we need to explore adding a staff person,” Welling said, suggesting the new teacher could be certified to teach biology as well as the CASE courses.

Director Gerald Hughes suggested the beefed-up agricultural program might help Derry Area increase the number of tuition-paying students its program attracts from other area districts.

With Joseph Soltis absent, the board voted 7-1 to approve the sale of the closed New Derry Elementary School to Derry Township-based Wicklow Logistics for $125,000. The sale was approved Oct. 16 by Westmoreland County Judge Richard E. McCormick.

Director Ted Schmidbauer said he opposed the sale because the building might be of use to the district.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media.

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