KNAPPA ­- Students here wear the blue jacket with pride.

To them, Future Farmers of America isn't just a 100-year old organization dedicated to the study of agriculture.

FFA at Knappa High School is all about learning, dedication and bringing land-based traditions into today's lifestyle.

So when the future of teacher Courtney Bangs came up before the Knappa School Board Monday, Logger students and others came out in force to make sure their program wasn't about to be axed.

Althought Bang's contract was not renewed, the program will remain.

More than 50 students, parents, teachers, alumni and community members turned out Monday evening for the meeting. Many voiced concerns about the future of Knappa's FFA program. Eight students wore the navy blue corduroy FFA jackets and dress uniform to the meeting - and several of them spoke with emotion about the program's merits.

High school senior Anna Marks said FFA has been the best part of her education, even though participation has dwindled.

"A lot of other programs can't boast the quality of students that we have. It would be the worst thing, in my opinion, for us to lose this program," Marks said.

Rinda Johansen, board chairwoman, responded to Marks' comments, voicing the board's position on sustaining the program for the long-term.

"The school board is in support of the FFA program. You guys have made us proud, and FFA will be here next year," Johansen said.

Both Rick Pass, the superintendent, and Debi Brazelton, high school principal, repeated that commitment throughout the meeting. Other members of the board did so as well.

Two years ago, the board decided to cut the full-time FFA instructor position to half-time. Bangs is the second teacher to fill that spot in as many years.

Later in the board's agenda, the board moved to renewal and nonrenewal of licensed personnel, an annual process for the board this time of year, Pass said. The only individual considered for non-renewal was Bangs.

The issue was planned for a private executive session but Bangs herself requested it be discussed in open session.

Brazelton, who is Bangs' immediate supervisor, read a prepared statement about Bangs' conduct since hiring, and cited multiple examples of Bangs' "poor communication."

The principal whittled her concerns down to one trait. "It's an honesty thing," she said, adding that she had no indication that Bangs' performance would improve.

Bangs may next choose to request a hearing, and this morning Pass indicated that she has chosen to do so. That hearing should occur in the next 20 days and would bring together the district's legal counsel and Bangs' legal support from the Oregon Education Association, the teacher's union, he said.

After the meeting, Brazelton said she hoped people could understand that the future of the agriculture and FFA program was not in jeopardy.

"We just need to continue our search for the right person. This is a very complex situation, and (Bangs) just wasn't the right fit," she said.

Bangs will continue in her current position until the end of the school year.

The vote was 4 to 1. In favor were Johansen, Ben Bartlett, Kathi Shear and Ed Johnson. Troy Lindgren voted against the nonrenewal.


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