Friday, October 8, 2010

Funds Reduction Causes Extension Restructuring

Plans are afoot for a major restructuring of the Virginia Cooperative Extension service. Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, announced a plan in light of a reduction of $10.3 million funding since 2007 for Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station.

The plan was presented to extension faculty and staff during a live Web conference today. “This plan allows Virginia Cooperative Extension to reduce costs, maintain a local presence across the commonwealth, and continue to provide high-quality, science-based educational programming for Virginia. This will allow us to shift resources to the highest-priority needs of the state and localities,” Grant said.

“In addition, the plan will provide local governments the opportunity to customize programming based on the needs of their community.”

According to Grant, the restructuring plan provides an infrastructure that will enable extension to fulfill its land-grant mission and preserve delivery of critical programs related to agriculture and natural resources, youth development, and families and communities.

“The new structure improves Extension’s program delivery model by establishing issue-based program teams that will design educational programs to be delivered to audiences by the locally based field staff,” Grant said. “These teams will be composed of extension educators and specialists, other Virginia Tech and Virginia State University faculty, and other collaborators.”

To ensure effective implementation and delivery of programming in the field, area program leaders will train, supervise, and mentor the Extension educators (formerly known as Extension agents). Area program leaders will have a high level of expertise in a particular subject matter.

The plan consolidates extension’s administrative field staff into a regional structure that includes locally based extension educators clustered around a “business center” in a three- to five-county region. The business center will house support staff as well as one or more state-funded Extension educators who will serve the region.

Each locality will be offered the option of housing one or more extension educators, based on local needs. At least one educator will be funded in partnership with extension and the locality. Localities may elect to fund additional extension educators to work on specific programs.

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