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Board OKs sheep sale as changes to FFA program loom

Woman who paid $805 for seven animals told to join same lottery as other buyers

After Cheryl Olviedo's teenage daughter, Morgan, picked out seven Columbia sheep for purchase last month - leftovers from a scaled-back FFA program at Forest Grove High School - the mother wrote the district a check for $805.

The district deposited the money, Olviedo told the school board Monday, but didn't deliver the goods.

'I put my check in, it's cashed, but now I'm told [the sheep] are not to be let go to me,' Olviedo said. 'Sheep are not my thing, but they give my daughter a sense of belonging.'

The mixup was all part of a still-developing process for redefining the 81-year-old FFA program at FGHS and curtailing its animal science component, district officials said.

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis told Olviedo she was sorry about the mix-up and directed business manager Mike Schofield to cut her a refund check first thing Wednesday morning.

But the board, after declaring the sheep 'surplus equipment' and setting the going rate at a reduced price of $50 per head for past or current FFA students, told Olviedo that - just like anyone else interested in buying one or more of the flock's seven rams and 35 ewes - she'd have to get in line Thursday morning for a lottery-style sale at the high school.

'What we have here is, we've sold something we couldn't legally sell,' said board member Fred Marble. 'Now we have to work out a new deal.'

The flock, which Assistant Superintendent John O'Neill said costs about $18,000 a year to maintain, need to be liquidated so the district can move ahead with plans to dismantle their barn and replace it with a smaller structure for housing lambs next May.

'We're keeping the market lamb component, and students can still compete with their animals at the county level,' said O'Neill.

But a major restructuring of the program during budget cuts last spring has left FFA students and alumni disgruntled - and frustrated over an evolving set of circumstances that made the sale of the chapter's flock a moving target on the summer calendar.

'Certain facts seem to keep changing over and over,' Nick Vandehey, father of former longtime FFA advisor Charlie Vandehey, told the board. 'The rules are different now.

'We all of a sudden have a second student who wants one of the very sheep that have already been sold,' he said, referring to Olviedo's supposed purchase.

By September, the high school's FFA offerings will consist of a metals class and a horticulture/landscaping class, O'Neill noted. Teacher Jamie Duyck is taking over as advisor, and the chapter will keep its status as one of Oregon's longest-running FFA programs.

The annual plant sale, a big fundraiser for the program, remains intact, and students will still be able to compete in public speaking at the Washington County Fair. Those who choose to purchase their own breeding stock and house them off district property could 'theoretically' compete at the state fair, O'Neill added.

'It's not just sheep - we've had kids compete at the state level in metals, wool, alfalfa and hay,' he said.

Thursday at 8 a.m., potential buyers will put their names in a hat as the lottery gets under way, said Connie Potter, district communications director. 'The first person drawn will get first choice, the second person second choice, and so on,' she said.

Since a number of the ewes are pregnant, Marble noted that 'it could be a three-for-one deal' for those whose females deliver two lambs. 'Sheep are like people - they have personalities,' he said. 'It has to be a lottery so people can choose, like in basketball.'

Any remaining animals will be sold at auction Aug. 29 in Woodburn, said O'Neill.