South Putnam board clears rumors, says aquaculture lab will not close

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Many concerned parents and students showed up to the South Putnam School Board on Tuesday evening hoping to find out more information regarding the school's aquaculture lab.

The board cleared up rumors that the aquaculture program at South Putnam High School would be closing following the loss of hundreds of fish after apparent overfeeding during winter break.

"This is strictly rumor," board member Steve Cash said. "There are no plans by the board to stop raising fish."

South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt noted that members are very proud of the lab and have no intention of closing it.

"We are very proud that we have an outstanding agriculture department that has received statewide and national acclaim," explained Bernhardt. "We want to see all that continue in the future."

The aquaculture lab was set up to provide students with a hands-on approach to not only running a business but caring and learning about animal life. Students are able to feed the fish, clean the tanks as well as help other animals in the lab.

On more than one occasion during the superintendent's report, board members reiterated that they have absolutely no intention of closing the lab.

"We want to see that it's maintained at a high level," said Bernhardt. "We are all very much in favor and proud of what it's done."

Although, Bernhardt did not have an exact number of how many fish were found dead following winter break, he admitted the cause was having too much feed in the tanks.

"The matter is being investigated," Bernhardt said. "If it can be resolved, it will be as quickly as possible."

The fish are said to be in good health following a report to the board from Matt Griswold. It is estimated that about 500 fish survived, many however have eye and skin problems.

"They're monitoring the tanks and feeding them according to weight," board President Mike Rissler said.

Tuesday night was the first time the board had spoken publicly on the issue since rumors began in early January.

"We might have been able to avoid what happened over Christmas break if we utilized volunteer help," said concerned resident My Gilley, who also commented on the lack of a public statement.

It is estimated that among all the tanks, the fish totaled around 2,000. All the fish did not die. Pending the investigation many of the fish could possibly be replaced.

The board also approved a resolution amending the Plan of Organization and Manner of Election during Tuesday evenings meeting. The new resolution will provide equal representation for all districts.

Previously electoral districts elected board members. However due to population changes, several districts have a far higher population than others.

In order to equal out the populations, voting will now be done by residential districts. The general population will elect board members as a whole rather than voting on members only in their district.

"State law says we have to do it a different way than the way that we are," said Rissler. "It's the same as it is now, but you vote for every member."

A similar situation is happening with North Putnam as well. The board also stated that Cloverdale has already implemented this new policy.

The board also announce the resignations of bus driver Kim Franklin, Rita Latham of Reelsville Elementary, Gail Sutche of Central Elementary, Brian Gardner of South Putnam High School and Guy Gaston of the sewage plant.

They also approved the retirement of JoAnne Bryan of Fillmore Elementary and the new hirings of Marcy Young as high school nurse, Nellie Hayes as a part-time special education student assistant, Lori Evans as a Fillmore part-time instructional assistant, Kristie Bumgardner as a part-time instructional assistant, and Tina Pitts as a Reelsville instructional assistant.

Bernhardt did state that all new hires were to replace those retiring.

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  • To be fair, these meetings always seem a bit fishy, anyway.

    -- Posted by Balding Eagle on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 6:50 AM
  • ba-dum *ching*

    -- Posted by Clovertucky on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 8:06 AM
  • Sounds like someone was not competent to feed the fish properly. I am sure students will be blamed even though they were banned from entering the lab.

    Who was in charge of feeding? I think article says, and were the feedings documented how much and when? I doubt it. Fish were in good shape hmmmm! ya right some died duh!!!

    -- Posted by jearl on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 5:48 PM
  • I went to the school board meeting last night, and My Gilley did a awesome job speaking!! When she asked the superintendent different questions, he had no idea how to answer. The only thing he said was that it was under investigation..but never said who was investigating it. These are some of the things he did not know...we lost atleast $15,000 worth of fish so far, atleast...the fish that are still alive have either a eye or skin desease...didnt know if the insurance would cover it or not...that there was a expensive machine that was bought with a grant that was just sitting in the corner..that on a tour the tanks were filthy..that the emergency doors in the lab were blocked, so if there was a fire, the kids wouldnt be able to get out of the door..didnt know that the person who was responsible for taking care of the fish was offered help but refused! Im glad the superintendent was able to find all this out, along with the board.I think the board is made up of some pretty smart people, but without knowing these things, they cant act on them. I have to side with the kids on this one..give them their ag teacher back..they liked the guy..he did a fantastic job with the fish and with teaching..and stop picking on him over pidly things...otherwise this aquaculture lab is going to be belly up, just like the fish!!

    -- Posted by feedbucket on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 8:35 PM
  • I doubt water temps./ oxygen levels/ when tanks need cleaned or any other steps were taken to ensure the fish were in a good environment.

    Just my opinion of watching how these administration people don't work.

    -- Posted by jearl on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 8:53 PM
  • Very well said "Feedbucket"! I also attended the meeting and will be attending the future meetings as well, and encourage all people to stand up for the Agriculture Department! I would love to know Why the kids have not been aloud in the Lab to take care of the fish, plants & other living creatures in the Ag room since the requested leave of their HIGHLY RESPECTED Ag Teacher!!!??? The kids took much pride in their Ag projects and are completely devastated at the loss of life!!! If they would of been aloud to maintain and care for them as they were taught, They would be alive today!!!!!! They would of done a lot better job then who ever has been in charge this passed month!!! Bring back their teacher and save the Ag department before it's to late!!!!! It's going down hill VERY fast!!!!

    -- Posted by Friend4Ever! on Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 9:14 PM
  • The things that go on at the High School amaze me. They think we are stupid and don't realize what is going on.

    Some things the public should know is the Aquaculture program is self sufficient. The only thing the school pays for is: water, electric/heat.

    There were over 3000 fish killed over Christmas break. No claim has been filed with the insurance company and to date there are no plans to reimburse the program for the loss of fish.

    You should also know the program has received thousands of dollars in grant money for the aquaculture lab and for an aeroponics project that is sitting. The Ag classes had big plans!

    It's time to start calling your school board members and expressing your opinion over this situation before it is too late. The board only knows what they are being told by the Administration.

    Start calling today!

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Thu, Jan 19, 2012, at 1:26 PM
  • I went to South Putnam and the AG class was one of my favorites! We learned so much from Mr. B! It saddens me to see that this has happend and that students are not aloud to participate in this class any more! Such a Shame!

    -- Posted by Kbrennan on Thu, Jan 19, 2012, at 3:09 PM
  • The students were not allowed in the fish lab from December 12-December 19. The only reason they were let back in is because they complained to the School Board. The students told them they were not allowed in and that there were alot of thongs to be done that were not being taken care of. The Athletic Director was to be in charge of the care of the fish over Christmas break along with the Principal.

    Its not the schools money so they are not concerned about the investment that has been made into this program.

    -- Posted by letmegetbacktoya on Thu, Jan 19, 2012, at 4:44 PM
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