Guest Commentary: School District budget needs cost-effective cuts

Fellow Cazenovia School District taxpayers, we all realize that there is a great deal at stake as a result of the proposed school budget that will be voted on in May. No one envies the school board members with the task of having to decide what and where to cut, nor the realization that many of those cuts will directly impact the lives of members of our community.

The Board of Education meeting held on Monday Feb. 14 was an educational experience. It was impressive to see so many young people speaking so eloquently about the teachers and programs they cared about. At times, the performance of some of the board members seemed just that; a performance. It felt as if numbers had been crunched, lists prepared (that the general public were not allowed to view) and decisions had been reached that would be finalized, not because of public or faculty input, but in spite of it.

I'm sure every item that has been put forward as a possible cut causes someone, and often several people, pain. It was most distressing, however, to learn that there is one program that is being considered for complete elimination: the agricultural program. After almost 80 years of success at Cazenovia Central, I can't imagine losing such a valuable program because once it's gone, it will be nearly impossible to bring back.

The most recent New York State Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Patrick Hooker, is a Cazenovia FFA alumnus. Several of our distinguished citizens, business leaders and politicians have completed the agricultural courses at Cazenovia and been FFA members. When I asked a local businessman if he would be willing to sign a petition to keep the program in our school, he replied "Everyone who eats should be willing to sign the petition."

The agricultural program brings so much to our students, courses in agricultural science, small animal care, business management, opportunities to compete in state and national competitions that promote public speaking, essay writing, leadership and even proper parliamentary procedure. The opportunities for careers in agriculture are abundant and the FFA program gives students a real advantage when they get to college. I recently acted as a judge at an FFA competition held at the VVS school district and was impressed by the professionalism and maturity of every FFA student I met.

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