CALAMUS – Maybe it was fate that got Christina Bissey her new job as the head of the award-winning FFA program at Calamus-Wheatland School District.

The agriculture teacher of six years from Illinois will take over the Cal-Wheat ag program next fall.

That will bring her closer to the small cattle herd and farm that she and her boyfriend, T.J. Polk, have with his family outside Baldwin, less than 20 miles from her new school.

The School Board on Monday hired Bissey, 28, who is currently a teacher and FFA adviser at Lexington Junior High and High School in Lexington, Illinois.

She has been at Lexington since 2014, when she left a similar position with the Orangeville, Illinois, schools. She is originally from rural Odell, Illinois.

Bissey will succeed Jonah Ewers, who resigned in November, effective at the end of the school year.

She earned an associate degree from Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, before attending Illinois State University at Normal, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and started master’s coursework in agriculture education and leadership.

In an email interview, she said she was “very excited about the new opportunity” and proud of her work during four years in Lexington.

“In that time the FFA membership has increased from 20 [to] 55 FFA members,” she wrote. “I have also increased the number of students in the Agriculture Education program from 50 students to over 100 students annually.”

She has taught classes in agriculture, horticulture/landscaping, agriculture mechanics, animal science, plant science, veterinary science, and natural resources, among others. She was a 2015 DuPont Agriscience National Ambassador and was named the 2016 Illinois Outstanding Young Member by the National Association of Agriculture Educators.

Ewers has made the Cal-Wheat FFA program one of the state’s best, winning the Supreme Chapter award at the State Fair for the past two years.

But in his resignation, he cited a lack of administrative support, saying the job demanded much more time – especially in preparing for the fair during the summer – than the school was willing to pay for.

Superintendent Lonnie Luepker said Bissey would receive the same 40 days’ extended contract that Ewers has had for the summer workload. 

Calendar advances

In other business, the board approved second reading of the 2018-19 school calendar, setting the stage for a public hearing and final approval next month.

Under the proposed calendar, first day of classes would be Aug. 23, with the last day on May 24.

Winter break is scheduled for Dec. 24-Jan. 4, with classes resuming Jan. 7. Spring break would cover the Friday and Monday around Easter weekend, April 19-22.

Graduation would be May 19.

The board also approved a policy update to convert school time from days to hours. The 2018-19 school year would cover 1,122 hours. The minimum allowed by school policy is 1,080 hours.

Luepker said the update was overdue. The policy had not been changed since 2003.

Among other changes, language was deleted that said the academic school year for students “may not begin prior to September. …” The revised policy says the year “shall begin no sooner than August 23.”

Also Monday, the board:

Bought a new 71-passenger school bus from School Bus Sales of Waterloo for $81,440. Luepker said the school fleet of more than a dozen buses replaces a vehicle about every other year.

Renewed its four-year-old agreement with Midland School District to share services of a transportation director.

Hired Rachael Looney as a special education aide and Mackenzie Snowbarger to coach junior high softball.