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Monday, January 31, 2011

Engaging the Leadership Advisory Board in Identifying Critical Issues

Developing educational programs based on community needs is the foundation of Texas AgriLife Extension’s success. The Leadership Advisory Board’s Issue Identification process provides an avenue to hear from all types of clientele and people within a county. Providing solutions to county problems and issues will allow AgriLife Extension to remain viable to constituents. What could be more important to AgriLife Extension than listening to its “customers” – the people of Texas?
Our ability to meet educational needs depends on knowing what local residents see as their issues that impact their lives. There is no way to know the answers to these questions unless they are asked. Therefore, AgriLife Extension will involve the Leadership Advisory Boards in a process to ask residents what is important to them.

This activity is just one part of the needs assessment process. Other processes to collect information include, but are not limited to:
  •  State and National Trends
  •  Commodity/Industry Groups
  • State and Federal Mandates
  •  Emerging Issues
  •  County Committees/Planning Groups
The issues that surface should be discussed with county committees, task forces, and subject matter specialists to determine the appropriate action for educational programming.
Texas AgriLife Extension is unique because it has faculty in every area of the state who is dedicated to educating Texans in many areas of need. This uniqueness provides an opportunity to bring together the people of Texas, other service agencies, and educational groups to help provide solutions to the problems and issues facing Texans.
Remember the mission of AgriLife Extension: “Improving the lives of people, businesses, and communities across Texas and beyond through high-quality, relevant education.”

For more information, call the Organizational Development Unit at 979-845-7280, visit the website dedicated to this process at, or go to the Organizational Development Unit’s website at

In visiting with you and your coworkers during our recent Performance Appraisal Confreres, I have asked each one of you how and when you would be implementing your identification of issues. I want to remind you that the process must be completed by May 15th. With the busy spring of the year just upon us please know that each staff must complete this very important task. Thanks to many of you that have already entered your information on to the web site.

Engaging the Leadership Advisory Board in Identifying Critical Issues---Time Line
Sept-Oct., 2010 – Discuss with DEA/RPD the process for your county
Oct.-Dec., 2010 – Meet with LAB (or Chair) to begin plans.
Dec.-Apr. – Implement Process
May 15 – Enter issues online

Degree Information

In Extension, degrees are central to career ladder advancement and are a recognized means of professional development and learning. please go to the organizational site for proper forms that need to be submitted as you enroll in classes. Many of you have already done so, but if you have not you can get many of your questions answered on this site.

4-H & Youth News

Take A Stand website! 

A new section called "In The News" has been added which showcases news articles and other resources that you may find of interest.  There may be information in the articles or materials you wish to replicate in your county as you market and conduct the Take A Stand program with youth.  Please take some time to go to the website and check out the information!  I think you will find some great ideas there, including a "Keep Your Cool Rap", a Rumors Activity, and some great news articles!

If you have had a news article about the program in your local paper, please scan and send it to me!  If you have developed an activity to supplement Take A Stand, please send them to Cheryl Newberry, the instructions for the activity and if you have pictures to go with it, that is a bonus!  I will format it and post it on the web! 

Program Update:  We have completed the first year of the program and I am pleased to report that there were a total of 377 educational sessions conducted reaching over 20,000 youth and adults!  That is GREAT!   
MOST of those contacts were not supported with evaluations being submitted to Paul Pope for scanning (only about 1100 were sent in).   Whether or not you do an outcome with Take A Stand, if you complete the program with a group, PLEASE USE THE EVALUATION AND SEND IT IN FOR SCANNING so that we can have the data for state-wide impact!  If you hand tabulate the data, we still need you to send it in for scanning -- especially if you are doing an outcome!!!  This is very important!!!  Time restraints on due dates for outcome summaries may require you to hand tabulate, but I can still use the data if you will send it on in for scanning!!!

District 11 Reminders:
  • We have many Take a Stand Outcomes in District 11 please help to report your successes.
  • REMINDER:  4-H OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS due to the District Office by February 11, 2011.
  •  Agent Monthly reports due by February 7th, Commissioners Court Activity Report, Travel and Texas Reports. Accountability is more important than ever. If need to ask why you have been in a cave, please leave your cave and take care of business, thanks for what you do everyday,  DM

Thursday, January 20, 2011

District 11 Legislative Quarterly Reports

Interpretation of our great programs in our District, County, and communities is more important than ever. You certainly know how important it is in a difficult time in our states history, and you also are aware that I have reinforced this during our performance reviews this year. 

In 2011, I will implement and expect for each District 11 county to provide a one page quarterly email report to your State senator and state representative and their staffers. It is not appropriate to have formal interpretation with our state legislators during the session. We must let them get to business in Austin. However we can keep them updated and most importantly update their district staff. I want you to get to know your legislative district staff especially they new staff members of newly elected state leadership. It is appropriate to invite your state legislators and their staff to your show case events in your counties.  Several of you have invited your state leaders to your stock shows during this stock show season. This is a great way for them to interact with our volunteers, and youth in action. If they come to your events involve them in an opportunity such as a presentation, opening ceremony and or award presentation.  As representatives of state government and funding partners, our programs are theirs as well. I want to remind our agents and specialists that we must stay positive in our interpretation efforts. We may start to see some negative publicity from other areas especially the media, it is imperative that we stay positive! in providing information of our successful programs great programs are our best interpretation. 

The quarterly reports can be creative with limited amount of pictures, and video, including much of the same information that you provide in your county commissioner reports, highlight timely events during the year. Keep it short to the point and include public value and or economic effectiveness of our programs each time. 

I am not asking for you to do much more than you are doing already as you complete your reports each month.  I know that you can clearly understand that completion of this and other special reports is a critical professional obligation associated with professional educators with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. If you want more ideas on completing this report , I would suggest you contact Nueces, Victoria and or Karnes County. These counties already do a great job in providing a quarterly email update to their state senator, representative and their staff.Give me a call if you have any questions, DM

Cost Recovery
Recently we have received several notices of some significant changes in how we will do business in our counties concerning cost recovery and others ares, and will be receiving even more direction soon. I want to also make it clear that we should be open minded in looking to the future. County Extension agents are extremely resourceful individuals, for example  just look back at your human and material resource allocations for this past year in your PAS materials.  I am always amazed of how we allocate resources to acquire what we need to be productive.

I believe this will make our agency stronger, and make our programs better. Giving the choice of paying more taxes or paying for information clientele need, I believe our customers will choose to pay for relevant, research based knowledge from trained reputable educators such as yourselves. We must all (Agents, Specialists, and Volunteers) buy into our new changes and be unified as a team across the district. If you have any questions or concerns on cost recovery or other areas please give me a call. 

District 11 4-H News from Jodi
District 11 Consumer Decision Making Contest
The district CDM Contest will be held on MONDAY, MAY 9, 2011 at the KC Hall in Hallettsville, TX.  Registration will be after lunch with a contest start time around 2 p.m.   More details will be emailed soon!

District 11 Photography Contest
Thank you to everyone that participated in the photography poll.  For the 2011 District 11 Contest (junior & intermediates only), we will continue to submit printed/mounted photos.  However, the 2011 contest will use the NEW STATE CATEGORIES!  Complete photo contest rules and guidelines will be emailed soon and posted on the District 11 4-H website.  NOTE:  The 2012 D11 Contest will be moving to electronic submission and judging.  Please make your clientele aware of this change now!

REMINDER:  4-H OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS due to the District Office by February 11, 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

County Extension Agent- Generalists or Specialists

I am almost done with my tour of  District 11 Performance Reviews I had good visits with agents last week in Fayette, Wharton, Lavaca, Jackson, and San Patricio Counties. Each personal discussion concludes with professional development, and goals for the future. I am asking the same question of all agents in relation to their professional expectations and how they believe their clientele see them in their county. Most of our D11 agents respond to being either a professional educator or resource person in the county.  Our District 11 resident philosopher and Austin County Extension agent, Mr. Phillip Shackelford explained the duties of a county Extension agent are not of an occupation or a job it is a way of life. I believe that Phillip explained it well as we continue to meet the mission of AgriLife Extension.

Most of you if not all are more generalists rather than specialists in your occupation, depending on your staffing pattern and the size of your county.  We all try to know everything and to be everything to everyone, but we must also remember that in developing oneself professionally it is important to nurture each ones passion. I have asked each agent what is their specialty and challenged them to foster their specialty with this years professional development opportunities.  Our more tenure agent"s each have a special talents and a passion in which they learned over the years, and are resource persons to other agents in our Distinct and in the state.  New agents and mid career agents, with the help of our RPD's I want to challenge your to find your area of expertise and continue to grow as professional educators and ultimately become revered as our experts of the future.

Key leaders in your County
Another question that I am asking of each agent during PAS reviews is if Dr. Smith called one day and asked you if you could give him a few names of advocates and or ambassadors of your county program who would they be.  In the mist of our challenging times we must stay mindful of how are programs are making a difference in our communities.  Take time to think of these individuals and how we can use our volunteers to continue to tell our story.

County Committee Documentation
As I review your committee and program building structure in your county I often ask to see your documentation on your committees. Most of our agents have a procedure that they follow to document their meetings. A good protocol is first a letter must go out to the committee, secondly a sign in sheet must be provided and kept, and a designated recorder must take minuets , some times this is the agent. After the meeting the minutes are then sent out to the committee especially those that were not in attendance.

I know that documentation is also supported through the Texas system, however it is nice to see the protocol that is followed by our agents. I want to highlight a few counties and agents in this process. Brian Yanta in Goliad County scans every document associated with committee work he then saves the information each year and provides me with what I need electronically. He has every year in his career, documented on his computer . Another excellent effort is out of San Patricio County, Kathy Farrrow, county coordinator keeps all of this documentation and provides a matrix and or snapshot of the county committee structure. They includes, LAB, Youth board, Program Area committees and tasks forces that meet each year. This is a great way to see the entire county program building structure in a county.

Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassadors in District 11

The Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador Program equips youth with the knowledge and skills to become an ambassador for Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas 4-H Program and animal sciences as it relates to livestock projects.  After attending the Ambassador training, students are required to log at least 20 hours of service annually, helping novice 4-H’ers with their livestock projects and educating fellow 4-H’ers.  Hats off to the following youth from District 11 that have attended the Livestock Ambassador training:

·         Ty Batchelor, Matagorda County
·         Emily Kelley, DeWitt County
·         Rachel Kaplan, Nueces County
·         Cuatro Schauer, Bee County
·         McKenna Schulte, Washington County
·         Chelsey Rudasill, Washington County

We encourage counties to invite these young people to serve in leadership and teaching roles at livestock clinics and workshops, quality counts trainings, local projects visits, or other areas where you see fit.  Several of these members assisted with the Coastal Bend Classic to work toward their annual 20 hours of service.  Please give them other opportunities to assist and log service hours.  

Personnel News in District 11
District 11 agents help me welcome Mr. Charles Seely to District 11. Charles is now the new Calhoun County 4-H Agent. He is completing his first step training in Matagorda County prior to assuming his duties in Calhoun County on February 1st. Charles comes highly recommended from Tarleton State University.  I know the Calhoun County 4-H members and leaders have plenty for him to do as he starts his Extension career.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a good Holiday Break and are ready for the new year. I wish each an every District 11 staff member a prosperous and productive 2011. It is clear as I continue my tour of District 11 during our performance appraisal evaluations, how effective and productive each one of you were last year.  You certainly made a difference in the lives of your clientele in 2010. I truly appreciate all that you do to make District 11 one of the best Extension Districts in the state.

I would like to remind you to please have your staff job responsibilities assignments for the year ready for review. This is the time we evaluate your specific area of work and tasks associated with these job responsibilities.  I also want to commend those of you that have completed your civil rights reviews, the process goes much smoother if you have your observation record completed prior to my visit. If you are to have a CR review please pay attention to this detail.

Utilizing Volunteers in Interpreting Extension Programs

The utilization of volunteers who serve on various committees and task forces is an excellent strategy to implement in both formal and informal interpretation efforts. The involvement of volunteers in the interpretation process is ingrained in many county’s interpretation culture. In counties where volunteers are utilized in interpretation agents have spent quality time arming committee and task force members with the type of information needed for them to effectively interpret Extension educational programs. However, there are many counties across District 11  where volunteers could be more effectively utilized in formal or informal interpretation efforts. Elected officials place tremendous creditability on information related to Extension educational programs when it is provided by constituents. However, volunteers don’t provide interpretation by chance– it happens as a result of planning, training, and design.

In order for volunteers to be effective in interpreting programs they must:

  • Be an individual whose opinion is valued and respected by your elected officials.
  • Have an active role along with agent to plan,implement, evaluate and interpret effective county programs that results in measurable outcomes.
  • Have an understanding of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service as an organization.
  • Your volunteers should be armed with appropriate data related to Texas AgriLife Extension’s roles in providing educational programming efforts your county.
  • They should Embrace the philosophy that an investment in Texas AgriLife Extension Service programs is an investment that provides a return in your county in terms of economic, environmental, and/or social outcomes.
  • Be equipped with information related to specific program(s) outcomes in your county.

Making a Difference Interpretation Templates/ County One Pagers

These templates have been posted for County Annual Report and Outcome Summary reports. It is imperative that these be consistently utilized when developing interpretation pieces. The link to download these documents is as follows:

Your outcome summaries should be uploaded to Texas. I am also asking for you to update your county one pagers. Some of you already have, this was an extremely useful tool for me in my first full year. please make the necessary adjustments and send them in to me by  January 15th, thanks, DM

Annual Agricultural Income Increment Report
Due Date:January 14th, 2011 my office, please send thorough email and cc Barbara Moretich

Agricultural Agents, I appreciate your leadership and cooperation in providing the annual estimate of Ag Production Value from your county. These are the only current annual income data available to represent Texas Agriculture to county, state, and federal agencies, news media, new commercial industrial prospects and agribusiness.