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New Greenhouse Management Course Approved

The Board of Education gives the district the go-ahead to develop curriculum and add a new course teaching students greenhouse management skills.

Newtown High School expects to add a greenhouse management course to its offerings next year after receiving permission from the Board of Education during a meeting at the Tuesday.

The course, which would be taught by George Bachman, the high school's greenhouse manager and biology teacher, won't require additional staffing and would offer students credits that could be used at Naugatuck Valley Community College, which might be transferrable to the University of Connecticut, officials said.

But most of all, the course would provide the student enough training to apply for an assistant greenhouse manager's job upon high school graduation in a billion-dollar industry looking for those such skills, Bachman said.

"There is a definite need for students who are ready to step into these positions with minimal amout of training," he said. "It's an unfulfilled niche."

The idea for the new course, which could be offered as early as next year but likely not available every semester, came to Bachman, he said, following the completion of the new greenhouse, which drew much interest in the last year due to the costs associated with building it.

"We are looking forward to getting up and running again and turning it into a community jewel that it has been in the past," Bachman said of the greenhouse. "I would really like to maximize its use."

The high school already offers two greenery courses, which teaches students plant science as well as how to market and sell what they grow. The greenhouse management course would be independent of those courses, although education board member Cody McCubbin said teachers should probably recommend students learn about greenery beforehand.

The greenhouse management course would teach students about the equipment, selecting the right crops and cultures and formulating and implementing a business plan, officials said. The costs associated with the program would include those needed to purchase textbooks and growing supplies, though some of the expenses may be defrayed from plant sales, officials said.

Bachman said that as a former horticulture adjunct at Naugatuck Valley Community College and after talking to people in the industry, he believes some students might be able to go from high school graduation directly into a job with the skills taught in the class, or others might qualify for a job as a manager with an additional three to four years of work experience.

"Definitely an assistant greenhouse manager right from high school," Bachman said.

Education board members Laura Roche and Bill Hart questioned how the course would impact other classes at the high school. Bachman also teaches biology at the school.

"I was just going to assume that I would take on that program and adjust my schedule accordingly," he said. "I think there is flexibility in my schedule."

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda said the addition would not mean Bachman's biology class would be bumped, but likely that one of the existing greenery courses might not be offered one semester in favor of the greenhouse management one.

Gejda said officials were looking for the board's approval on the concept now so the district could proceed to develop the course curriculum and have it ready to be included in a Program of Study that comes out in March for students. The scheduling of the class would be done as part of the overall course scheduling done by school administrators, Gejda said.

The class would be one of the few vocational ones at the school and would allow students to accrue credits that potentially might be accepted at some colleges. Newtown offers courses that may allow students to accrue at least 12 college credits even as they graduate high school, officials said.

Sam Mihailoff January 11, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I had to enlarge the photo...ok, it's the microphone. At first glance I thought Debbie was yawning. IT'S A JOKE PEOPLE.....JUST A JOKE...don't climb all over me for saying that.
Alex Tytler January 11, 2012 at 11:12 PM
So we're spending big bucks to get 25,000 a year jobs for people that don't even exist. Great!
Sam Mihailoff January 11, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Eric, sounds about right!!!...how can they sit and be so civil to Ms. Gejda when she says "credits that potentially might be accepted at some colleges"
John Holden January 12, 2012 at 06:37 AM
I am glad the high school I graduated from offered Vocational Agriculture classes. Way to go Newtown High School!
Mary Thomas January 12, 2012 at 02:08 PM
It is a win-win for Newtown to have this program in place for students and residents. When the Greenery was open (before the recent renovation) it had plants offered on a seasonal basis that were excellent value, available for sale at the school, and appropriate for our climate. George Bachman, an experienced and excellent teacher, worked way beyond 'normal' school hours getting the greenhouse in shape for students to work. And if John Holden, a local landscaper who himself does excellent work, says it was important to him to take vo-ag, I would take notice.
Christine Sekelsky Hermes January 12, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Isn't Pomperaug the proper High School for this, isn't this why Pomperaug is offered to our students?
Steven January 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM
We just dropped $200K on the greenhouse, a least its going to get used... nothing worse then dropping $$$ to build it, only to not use it.
Debbie Leidlein January 12, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Mary, you will see the Greenery up and running again soon.
Debbie Leidlein January 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Christine, I believe Nonnewaug is the school you are speaking of and they do have a program. However, the cost of transporting students to Woodbury is high and if we have the facility and the teacher, it makes sense to offer the program.
Alex Tytler January 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
These people enjoy playing with other peoples money. It's fun and there is no downside.
Rita Willie January 12, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Where did Mr. Bachman get his information saying that greenhouses are a billion dollar industry? Didn't he see that Lexington Gardens, after many succesful years of business has gone out of business.? All the Agway greenhouses have cut way back and many actually have been closed down. Flowers, like so much of everything else we buy today, are flown in daily to the Flower Market in New York. They come from Holland and other foreign countries. The help in the existing nurseries come from other countries and don't speak English. Only Spanish. A high school course might get a student in the door as a maintenance person, but they all come from another country. They don't want our children. They would have to pay them a higher salary. You don't just walk out of high school and into a managerial position. And if you could, where are these jobs that are begging to be fulfilled? And what exactly is "The Greenery"? How is it different from what is now being proposed as another gardening course? Please don't get the students all enthused about a program that will NOT get them where they want to be. And what a waste of educational funds. Let common sense prevail.
katydid January 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I hope the new greenery is a success, but so there's no confusion "plants offered on a seasonal basis" --mums, poinsettias, etc. at nhs were not grown by the students--they came from somewhere else. Hopefully this new, overpriced greenhouse will afford students greater opportunities.
almond joy January 13, 2012 at 12:12 AM
My son is a junior at NHS and can't balance a checkbook, explain how inflation works, or understand how much of his paycheck to save in the bank. but you are teaching him chineese music and how to plant tomatoes. I was at a very large local green house operation here in town just a few weeks ago and if you really wanted to prepare children to work in the greenhouse business you would teach them spanish! No one i saw spoke english, if you wanted to create job openings there all you had to do was yell "INS"
Swami January 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Who says there are no green house jobs? From this week's Bee.... New England Nursery, of over 49 years, is seeking a highly motivated and energetic Green House Grower with the main focus on perennials. Responsibilities include but are not limited to: * Daily Maintenance (watering, fertilizing and pest management) of crops as well as monitoring the progress of plant growth in an effort to meet sales deadlines * Working in a retail environment w/excellent customer service skills * Managing a team of people to oversee maximum growth potential Requirements: * A minimum of 3 years previous experience in nursery/greenhouse * Knowledge of perennial and annual growing techniques * Must be self-directed with the ability to prioritize tasks and produce consistent results * Demonstrate strong leadership ability * Must be motivated & enthusiastic
Scott Coleman January 13, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Despite what might seem to be a limited career choice on the surface, you never know what will pique the interest of a NHS student. A very quick search on Indeed.com (job search board) revealed close to 1,000 jobs under the titles of "Plant", "Turf", "Garden", "Grounds", "Farm", "Nursery", "Horticulture", all within 25 miles of Sandy Hook. Now I would immediately eliminate 60% of them because Indeed also picks up things like "Olive Garden" as a match but even so that is a pretty good pool of jobs within a very local geography. Why shouldn't an NHS student become a Turf Manager at a golf course or a Sales Territory Manager for Burpee Seeds in Shelton? These kinds of programs should spark ideas for our students. My son has taken two semesters of Drafting, two semesters of Architecture and has just completed his Junior Project - working with a local business, using the skills he learned at NHS, to design and fabricate a product he may sell. Is he going to be an architect? I don't know. Is he going to be a draftsman? I don't know, but I sure know that those classes opened up some options to him and I think we need to continue to offer things that expand the spectrum of what our students are exposed to. I strongly applaud moving forward with this program.
dave T February 03, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Most of nursery jobs including the ones I had as a youth they trained ya... Is this another identity crisis? Nonnewaug is pretty close... As is abbot tech lest we also wanna build a a 10 bay garage next year to be them too... Not that i think it's a bad idea to afford teaching the curriculum however a 200k plus expense is yet another absurdity that won't yield any payoff... btw there is a nice little greenhouse rotting away in the ffh campus we already own... .
dave T February 03, 2012 at 01:17 PM
actually ffh has a dozen or so greenhouses on the property.... why not get the metal shop dept fix them up for a semester...

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