YUKON — The Yukon School Board adopted policy changes Monday aimed at curbing “skimming,” the practice of overcharging for livestock, within the district's vocational agriculture program, which is among the largest in the state.
The district's Future Farmers of America program has come under scrutiny in recent months after a wealthy local couple filed a lawsuit claiming they'd been overcharged for a show steer by roughly $4,000. The lawsuit claimed the couple were overcharged by a former agriculture instructor who has since left the program.
The policy changes adopted by the board include a new rule that requires parents to deal directly with breeders or ranchers when buying livestock for the district's FFA program.
In the past, parents or guardians were essentially giving agriculture instructors a blank check to buy animals and had very little to do with the transaction.
Jeff Deckard, vice president of the school board, said the new policy will protect the school district, students and parents.
“This is just a better way,” Deckard said. “This just makes it so the issue shouldn't even come up again. The whole idea ... is on the cutting edge.”
At the same time, Deckard said the change would likely be challenging. He said he thought it would be difficult to get breeders and ranchers to change the way they've done business for decades.
Others at the meeting, including Superintendent Bill Denton, agreed.
“It's changing the culture,” Deckard said. “And this is a close-knit group.”
Deckard also revealed during the meeting that he was in favor of “killing” Yukon's large agriculture program, but said the policy changes gave him a change of heart. He had some stern words for certain parents and other adults involved in the school's FFA program.
“Participating in this program is a privilege for our kids. Period,” Deckard said. “When that gets awry ... we get to where we've been for the past 14, 16 months.”
Denton said during the meeting that he is committed to changing the agriculture program at Yukon, as well as booster clubs associated with it.
“We've had a very bad thing happen in the program,” he said. “But it's not a bad program.”
The district's top administrator went on to say that he's encouraged by the progress being made in the program's booster club, which was prominently highlighted in the attorney's investigative report.
An investigative report released to Yukon school officials nearly a year ago found that the booster club had numerous weaknesses, including unexplained deposits and withdrawals into and out of its bank account and very few receipts on hand to document purchases or other expenditures.
“I feel like they're headed in the right direction, as well,” Denton said. “They may continue to adjust some things ... but I really feel comfortable with their present leadership, feel like they're there for the right reasons.”
Nobody has been charged in connection with the alleged skimming, although the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has been investigating the claims for roughly a year.
Not an issue statewide
Jack Staats, the state FFA adviser, said the issue of skimming isn't a statewide problem.
And while he commended the Yukon School Board for the making the policy changes, he doesn't think every FFA program in Oklahoma needs to run out and do the same.
“This, to me, is the first time we've had this come up,” said Staats, who was an agriculture instructor for more than 30 years before serving in his current capacity.
“This a local decision. I think it could possibly be a good thing ... to add more accountability ... but every local situation is very different.”