Frequently Asked Questions — DASNR Intranet
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DASNR Intranet

Frequently Asked Questions

February 2019 

Communications Guidance

Communications: When will be allowed to share our situation with our decision makers? When are we allowed to start the conversations with our clientele?  Is our situation still to be kept internal?

I’ve talked openly about our budget situation since our initial forum in June 2018 as the budget numbers are a matter of public record. Agricultural Communications Services has developed a variety of materials to assist in communications: a Budget News Release, Extension Stakeholder Report Template, What is Extension PPT, OCES Budget Information sheet, We are the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service video. These may be accessed along with a link to We Are Oklahoma resources on the Building for the Future-Tools page: https://apps.dasnr.okstate.edu/SSL/intranet.okstate.edu/OCES/future/building-for-the-future-tools/building-for-the-future-tools

 

Will there be a collective, with all of extension programming, effort to "lobby" to county commissioners?

We will be providing information to county commissioners in a variety of ways. Damona has been working with Notie Lansford to build relationships with county commissioners via ACCO, the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma. She met with Gene Wallace, Executive Director of ACCO, and expects to be a speaker at their statewide conference in March. In addition, she spoke briefly at a training session that Notie held in conjunction with the fall conference to alert county officers of coming changes due to budget constraints. Through a meeting with the Chair of the Board of Directors, she and Notie are exploring opportunities to meet with the ACCO Board of Directors as well. As part of the overall communications plan, communications pieces have been developed that can be shared locally with County Commissioners and others (see the Building for the Future – Tools page). As their schedules permit, Extension administrators (District Directors, Program Leaders – Assistant Directors and Damona) will join CEDs upon request to help share the Extension message. 

Beyond the local level, if you are asked to speak at a meeting or a hearing by a legislator, please consult with your District Director or other administrator and keep Damona informed. Please refer to and share our OCES common communication resources. It will be helpful to keep the Dean informed of those requests as well so he can keep the OSU lobbyists informed. OSU policies and state laws that apply are: 

OSU Policy – Political Activities of Employees
https://stw.sp.okstate.edu/policies/Shared%20Documents/Political%20Activities%20of%20Employees.pdf

3.01 Employees are permitted to freely engage in lawful political activities of any kind provided such activities are conducted on the individual' s own time, do not interfere with official duties and responsibilities, and are not inconsistent with other provisions herein.

Influencing lawmakers may be considered a “lawful political activity”. However, it must be done on personal time, apart from work. One facet of ensuring it is not done on “work time” is to avoid using OSU stationary or email resources to communicate with lawmakers. Doing it away from official OCES meetings is important as well.  If a person takes time away from work, for example to go as a Farm Bureau member and meet with lawmakers, s/he needs to take personal leave for the time away from work, and clearly identify as a Farm Bureau member (for example, or whatever group you are with), and communicate as a member of that group, not an OSU employee.

Oklahoma Ethics Law
https://www.ok.gov/ethics/documents/2015%20%28REV%29%20ETHICS%20COMMISSION%20COMPILATION%20v3.pdf
p.63

Rule 2.9. Prohibitions on Activities of State Officers and Employees Designed to Influence Elections. No state officer or employee shall engage in activities designed to influence the results of an election for state office or a state question during hours in which the state officer or employee is in official work status or at any time while wearing a uniform or wearing identification that identifies that person as a state officer or employee. This prohibition shall not apply to elected state officers.

 

Has anyone gone to the Chancellor to see if we get funding from Legislator if he will allow those funds to reach us? Is there any plans to seek additional funding from the Legislature?

We support the Chancellor’s request for additional funding for all of higher education in the next budget year. In addition, we will continue to support the “Reinvesting in DASNR” funds that come through ODAFF each year to help us with the costs of transitioning to a new staffing and programming model.  

 

What options exist for submission of questions anonymously? 

It is possible that some employees may have questions that they would prefer to ask anonymously or at least not ask directly of supervisors, program leaders or the Associate Vice President. We are considering possibilities for ombudsman roles for one or more persons. Training would need to be provided to prepare them for these responsibilities. 

 

 

Impacts on Personnel: Opportunities and Potential Impacts

What will happen during the transition process? If I’m in a county that won’t be able to contribute enough funds to maintain all current personnel, what will happen and what are my options? 

The goals of the transition process are:

  • Continue to deliver programming and serve stakeholders while also minimizing impacts on personnel
  • Position OCES to build strategically for the future to meet program needs

During the transition, attempts will be made to retain as many OCES employees as possible who are willing to move and/willing to serve in more than one county. 

Internal Transfers for Jobs. Positions that are vacated due to employee retirement or resignation will be advertised internally. 

  • Moving Expenses. Moving expenses may be paid within procedural limitations when a current county educator is transferred from one location to another location at the request of administration and may be paid within procedural limitations for county educators accepting lateral transfers. Moving expenses will not be paid for a county educator’s initial or first work assignment. A moving expense amount may be provided up to $3,000 per move. The amount for the move will be pre-determined by Administration at the time of the offer, not to exceed $3,000. The offer letter will state the following:  “In addition to the above salary and benefits, you will be provided with $X,XXX.XX for moving expenses. This will be paid through the online Exception to Normal Pay (ENP) system and will be subject to applicable tax withholdings. You should contact your tax professional as to the deductibility of moving expenses when you file your annual tax return.” To initiate the ENP pay, the district office will send a copy of the offer letter to the financial coordinator of Extension Finance stating the moving expense allocation. Revised July, 2013 (p. 19, OCES Procedure Guide: Field Operations)

Partnership and Sharing Opportunities.In the event that fewer educators or staff can be afforded, local officials and Extension staff are certainly encouraged to explore opportunities to increase funding support or to partner to employ personnel. That may mean partnering with nearby counties to share educators. We recognize that sharing of personnel across county lines is not ideal either for programming or personnel. Availability of counties with whom to partner may limit options in some cases. Only if county offices are geographically close would PAs or staff be shared. As needed or desired, opportunities to partner with other agencies with similar missions and goals, such as the Conservation Commission, should be explored for potential to share administrative staff, PAs or perhaps educators. District lines are irrelevant in developing partnerships. 

  • Within OCES, District Directors working with CEDs and program leaders/Assistant Deans, will evaluate personnel-sharing opportunities within Extension to meet our program delivery goals. Should there be more expertise in a program area (4-H youth development, agriculture and natural resources or family consumer sciences) than is deemed justifiable and supportable in a specific geographic area, a new multi-county job description may be developed to match programming needs for which eligible employees will apply. 
  • Salary incentives may be offered to educators to compensate them for working multiple counties. For example, an educator working in two counties will receive supplemental pay of $3,000 per year for time served in that capacity or $4,000 if serving three counties.  
  • District Directors working with CEDs and program leaders/Assistant Deans may also explore partnership or sharing arrangements with entities such as Fair Boards or the Conservation Commission to help fund or share positions. At the same time, Extension administration will continue to explore opportunities at the state level for both personnel sharing with other agencies and entities and willingness to co-fund needed positions.

Future staffing investment decisions will be made carefully based on local input, demographic data, local funding and opportunities for partnering where they exist. The District Director, CED, program leaders/Assistant Directors and local officials will use all available information in determining the appropriate staffing level. The choices made will impact the level of Extension educational programming and events that will take place and may impact the hours that offices will be open

Process for Layoffs, If Needed. While efforts will be made to retain employees who are willing to move or otherwise change positions, should the combined funding of OCES and local government be insufficient to maintain employees in a given location, OSU policy (3-0731& 3-0711) will be implemented to reduce the work force. A reduction in work force shall be among the last options implemented by the appropriate dean, director or department head. It may be instituted in cases of bona fide budget reduction, lack of work, lack of funds, program discontinuation, technological replacement, or any other condition of serious financial distress that may be determined or declared at any time in the future. When such conditions exist, the respective dean or director, with the approval of their respective vice president will announce or declare the implementation of this policy. The criteria used to determine which positions are impacted include: 

  • Least amount of negative impact on the vital programs of that unit in addition to the least amount of negative impact on the equal employment gains of the unit.  
  • Staff  retention during  periods  of work  force  reduction where  the number  of  staff in  the selected job(s) exceed the number of positions to be eliminated will be based upon performance as well as length of time in service.   Performance and seniority are determined as follows:
    • The  level of  performance shall be  determined  by the  three  most recent  written performance reviews. 
    • Seniority shall be determined as University wide continuous employment date.

90 day written notice is given to the affected employees. In the case of lost or reduced funding by a grant or contract, shorter notice may be appropriate. Additional details are found at https://hr.okstate.edu/sites/default/files/docfiles/layoffguide.pdf


How will county staff have the opportunity to “try” for a certain position in this new staffing pattern? For example, when there are two educators from the same program area already in those counties that want the one available position in the new “multi‐county” area? Also,will other educators in the state be able to try for that one position?

The most likely process is that if there are more educators in a multi‐county geographic region than can be funded to support programming in a program area, a new job description would be developed and educators in that multi‐county area would be given an opportunity to apply for that position.

Other educators would be eligible to apply for any new position advertised. The hiring decisions would be based on the needs of the multi‐county area and the level of experience and expertise the interested educators could bring to that multicounty position.

 

Will support staff be eligible to share counties? 

Having support staff share counties is problematic given the time constraints. It may be considered in exceptional cases, for instance, where offices are not great distances apart. 

 

So as people jump ship, will those open positions be placed in more or less a hiring freeze until we can see how this all shakes out in 2020 and what our level of staffing is at that time? So those who are still here will be able to evaluate the open positions to see if it would be a place they would want to transfer to? So if a position close to you opens up and you are not sure what your current county will do - you should probably strongly consider moving?

Vacant positions will be advertised internally. Employees who are concerned about local funding for sufficient positions have an opportunity to move should they wish to do so and can receive assistance with moving expenses. 


How will the workload be reduced and assigned for 75% employees?

With input from HR, the program leaders along with the District Directors have been developing position descriptions for ¾ time appointments along with some metrics for expectations.

 

Can a 75% employee be a county director…or for that matter, will county administration look different (for example, “Super‐D.C.’s with NRCS)

Yes, a 75% employee can be county director. At present, we are not planning to change the county administration structure.


Are 75% staff eligible for benefits?

Employee with continuous, regular appointment of at least six months who work at least 30 hours per week (0.75 FTE) are eligible for insurance benefits. Also note that leave accrual, holiday pay are reflective of FTE and life insurance and retirement would be impacted in accordance with lower salary. The dependent child tuition waiver is also available for continuous, full-time, regular employee (0.75 FTE) for at least two years at the time the dependent receives the benefit (other requirements for the waiver https://hr.okstate.edu/employee-dependent-child-waiver-benefit).

 

 

Funding and Budgets: History and Future

What has led to the need for a reduced investment in local personnel?

The June OCES webinar laid out the budget basics. OCES funding comes primarily from state, federal and county government with some additional funds from grants and a small amount from fee-based programs. All states have a mix of funds supporting Extension with government playing an important role. Salaries and fringes typically account for about 88% of the OCES budget. In 2018, the portion of our budget coming from state funds was approximately 64% with about 16% from county funding and 16% from federal appropriations. Federal appropriations have been virtually flat over the last two decades. State funding has been cut about 24% in the last 5 years, leading to annual shortfalls of about $2 million for the past 3 years and dwindling reserves. State funding has decreased about $10.5 million since FY09. Additional budget notes describing the partnership, changes in funding over time and steps taken to date to reduce expenditures are provided in the OCES Budget Information Sheet on the Building for the Future- Tools website.  

 

What has been done to reduce expenses thus far?

Faculty numbers have been reduced 33% in recent years along with a 25% reduction in area specialists. Northwest and Southwest Districts were consolidated to form a Western District, eliminating one administrative position and district staff positions. We now have only 2 District Program Specialists for Family Consumer Sciences. Several counties are sharing educators due to budget constraints. Vacated positions are not automatically refilled at any level. Allocations for both block salaries and M&O to departments have been cut over time. We continue to scrutinize every line in our financial statements to look for opportunities for savings. A current example is that we may be able to significantly reduce our postage allocation shifting the cost of shipping soil samples rather than using OCES funds to subsidize them. 

 

What can be done to raise revenue? 

An OCES Excellence Fund has been added to OSUgiving.com for charitable contributions and potential donors may consider endowments to support other Extension initiatives (including local ones) perpetually. Grantsmanship that helps fund personnel along with growth in fee-based programming are encouraged. County Councils may be formed in which local stakeholders become advocates for Extension. These are longer term initiatives and not short term solutions to our current budget problems. Webinars to discuss each of these have been held in recent months. Links may be found on the OCES page in the DASNR Intranet Site. 

 

How much funding will OCES invest in local personnel per county in coming years?

A local Extension presence continues to be a priority, but budget constraints no longer allow OCES to fund personnel in counties at historical levels. Despite significant reductions in investments in campus faculty and area specialists, elimination of one district office and an increase in contributions from some county governments to maintain personnel, budget shortfalls continue. OCES expects it will be able to annually invest approximately $116,000 on average in local offices in the future. This is the case even if additional funding is received from the legislature in the next several years because a more resilient financial structure is needed and reserves must be rebuilt to reduce financial risk. In counties not currently paying contractual services to support staffing beyond 1.5 educators and 1 administrative assistant, the transition to fewer staff and educator FTEs has begun as vacancies occur and the transition to fewer personnel will continue. This may lead to educators being shared across county lines or administrative replacements being less than full time unless a partner to share the cost of staff time is found. Program assistants (PAs) may help supplement educator resources to assist with programming and trained volunteers also will continue their important role in leveraging Extension capacity. OCES expects that education in all program areas will be delivered in all counties at some level. In counties with limited staff, programming in some areas may be delivered from nearby counties or through area specialists.

OCES priority is to ensure one full Extension educator FTE be funded in each county with the goal of having all programs areas represented through sharing across county lines. Recognizing many counties have increased their investment in local Extension, the minimum county investment will remain $12,500 for Basic Level staffing. A minimum of $8,500 is required for M&O for the office and $4,000 per educator, primarily for travel. 

If an educator is shared across county lines, an option is for travel funds for educators to be managed centrally and billed to county government. 

 

Basic Level Staffing Options County Investment Required
A Full time educator
  • If only in one county or shared with one other county, would be  ½ 4-H plus ½ ag or FCS
  • If shared with one or more counties, would have  either FCS or ag appointment with fewer 4-H responsibilities
¾ time admin assistant/PA*
$12,500
B  ¾ time educator**
  • If only in one county, split of ag or FCS and 4-H
  • If shared with another county, would not have a split appointment with 4-H
Full time admin assistant/PA
$12,500

*PAs are expected to be supervised by an educator regardless of the level of appointment. 
** This option could be available if an educator chooses to shift to a ¾ time position. The educator will need to receive clear guidance on job expectations and will need to understand the impacts on retirement and other benefits. 

While PAs traditionally have been employed to supplement the educator’s role in counties with larger budgets (most commonly in 4-H programs), they may increasingly be used to help manage activities and event planning in counties with limited budgets. The PAs role with respect to education is limited to delivery of fixed curriculum. Both Admin and Program assistants are non-exempt employees limited to working 40 hours per week. Hence, sharing of Administrative Assistants and/or PAs across county lines is problematic given the limited number of hours they can work weekly. 

 

Will all counties be equal in funding regardless of demographics or 4-H youth enrollment?

We know what OCES can afford on average to invest in local educators per county. We aim to have an educator in every county. The assignments with respect to program area may vary. We will consider the historic demand as well as potential demand for different programs as a guide in deciding staffing. Longer term, we expect that needs assessment and community engagement sessions will play a role in informing program needs, with staffing decisions to follow.

 

What are the planned budget parameters for staffing beyond the basic level? 

For FY21 budget planning purposes, the expected cost per position is:

Salaries  
Educatior  $80,000
 Admin/PA  $48,000
   
 M&O  
 Office  $8,500 
 Educator  $4,000
 PA  $3,525

 

Additional FTES to build local staff can be added at cost if logistically possible (personnel and expertise is available and/or hiring is possible):

  • ¼ FTE of educator = $20,000, ½ FTE = $40,000; ¾ FTE = $60;000; 1 FTE= $80,000
  • ¼ FTE of admin assistant (admin) or program assistant (PA) = $12,000, ½ FTE = $24,000; ¾ FTE = $36,,000, 1 FTE = $48,000

M&O for additional educator/PA FTEs remains similar to past requirements in that it is incremental as FTEs increase by whole numbers. For example, more than one educator but fewer than 2 adds $4,000 to the M&O requirements, more than 2 but less than 3 FTEs adds an additional $4,000 and so on.  

 

What will the 2019 budget look like? Money wise? What we will have to ask for from our counties? What are the implications for counties in the 4 year plan?

FY19 budgets are currently being negotiated so there are no proposed changes to that process. FY20 will be the final year of the four year plan. As it was shifting the investment expectations in the needed direction, it will be followed to completion. This means that counties can expect an increase contractual services of$9,250 for FY20. When budget negotiations are begun for FY20, discussions should also take place about FY21 given the significant changes and repercussions for staffing. It will be important to clearly identify the expected budget increase to maintain staffing at present levels so as to minimize any potential layoffs.

 

Will you be using a budget spreadsheet like Dr. Trapp did for county budget development? If so, when will that be available for FY2020? 

Yes. Budget spreadsheets were posted on the DASNR Intranet/Fiscal Affairs/County Contracts, Budgets & Expenditures page prior to the CED in-service in mid-January. 

 

Do the new figures for cost of an educator at $80,000 and for administrative assistant/program assistant of $48,000 start with FY20 or FY21? How long can we expect the dollar figures quoted in the video for additional staff above the 1 educator and 3/4 time secretary ($80K & $48K) to be held steady at that level? Could those $ amounts increase every year? 

The new cost figures for different positions will apply to the FY21 budgets. We anticipate that they would not change for two or possibly more years. In the past, cost of positions have been updated as salaries increase. We expect that there might be incremental adjustments in the future as well. They would not likely increase every year unless we had significant increases in salary levels in successive years, which has not happened frequently in the last 30 years. Travel and Maintenance and Operations requirements may increase based on increases in mileage, lodging and per diem rates and/or cost of increases in doing business.


Impacts on Program Delivery

How will program delivery in all areas in all counties be managed, specifically if there is a request for a program in a subject where the county office no longer has access to an educator with the expertise?  Will all educators have access to all program areas educational material?  -- Example: I do not have an FCS Educator, I needed the OHCE Leaders Lesson “Cooking for 1 or 2”.  This material is online but only FCS Educators can access it.  If counties are to provide programming in all areas, then all educators need access to all program are resources.

When a request comes to a county for an educational program, an educator who has been trained in that educational program must be the one to deliver the instruction to the audience. If that expertise (trained educator) is not available in that county, then the local extension personnel should consult with the district program specialist (in the case of FCS or 4-H; or district director in the case of ANR) and seek guidance as to who is trained and able to deliver the program. In the case of OHCE Leader Lessons, and after consulting with the FCS District Program Specialist, a program assistant or an educator from another program area could potentially deliver the leader lesson to an OHCE group. For agricultural topics, area specialists may be called upon more frequently to assist with local meetings. At the same time, to be efficient with use of their time and travel, multi-county meetings will be encouraged. 

 

Will the 4-H DPS position be filled?

Yes. The position has been advertised. However, no position in any program area will be automatically refilled. Every vacancy offers an opportunity to think about opportunities for work to be done differently or by someone else. Questions will be asked and alternatives weighed before a decision is made. Is there a way that OCES could be better organized to meet the needs efficiently and effectively? Is there an opportunity for someone else to gain leadership or education skills by picking up part of the role? Can volunteers be engaged to pick up some responsibilities? In this instance, would a committee structure with different educators taking leads over time allow for continuity in programming without refilling a position? District Directors and Program Leaders will be discussing questions like these as vacancies occur. It is in no way a reflection on the perceived value of the contributions of the previous holder of the position. No decision has yet been made with regards to the 4-H DPS position. 

 

 

Stakeholder and Community Engagement

How has information been gathered to date in coming up with the proposed local investment plan? 

  • County visits
  • OHCE conferences
  • Agent Association meetings
  • Monthly meetings with Extension administrators
  • Joint Council meetings (August, October, November)
  • Zoom meetings and webinars 
    • Budget (June 1)
    • OSU Foundation, County Councils
  • Industry meetings: ACCO, Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Wheat Commission, etc.
  • Professional meetings: Association of Southern Region Extension Directors (ASRED), National Extension Directors Association (NEDA), Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU)
  • Individual calls and emails

OCES highly values the county, state and federal partnership that has been foundational with respect to funding and key to inspiring programs that serve our audiences well both locally and nationally. This unique partnership has served us well but is not without challenges due to decreases in funding over time. Given the dominance of the state’s contribution in our funding mix, serving the state’s needs well is important. We choose to maintain personnel in offices in all 77 counties as local Extension office connections help us serve the people of the state with timely, high quality educational programming. Local educators and administrative staff serve as the eyes, ears and voice of Extension in communities daily. That presence keeps us grounded; ongoing communication with area and state staff inform DASNR as to emerging state needs for research and Extension. Because of our collective commitment to offer high quality programming, the local Extension presence helps generate invaluable support from local government up through state government. 

 

 

Decision Processes and Timeline

What is the timeline for transitions to anticipated lower levels of staffing?

 Adjustments in contractual services and/or staffing to be below the approximately $116,000 OCES investment constraint for local personnel must be fully implemented no later than July 2020 (beginning of FY21). To prepare for this transition, budget spreadsheets have been shared for use in both FY20 and FY21 negotiations. In spring 2020, should Extension administration anticipate that a county will be unable to fund local personnel at the existing level for the future, notices will be sent to affected employees no later than March 2020 to alert them to the need to seek employment outside OCES before July 2020. Any further reduction in local, state or federal funding may accelerate the transition process.

 

To be pro‐active and ready to begin the new “staffing era” in June 2020, when will those final decisions be made and/or will the District Directors, etc. assist current county personnel in moving towards those new staffing patterns in the next six months to get ready for 2020?

Our goal will be to have all sharing opportunities identified before the end of 2019, sooner if possible. We expect that final decisions must be made by February as our understanding of OSU policy is that if layoff notices are necessary, they would need to be sent no later than March.


How will current county staff be able to provide input and how and when will they be notified of decisions made?

The process for gathering input is expected to begin with discussion within OCES so that we have identified possible talking points for discussion with stakeholders. District Directors working with CEDs and program leaders/Assistant Deans will evaluate personnel‐sharing opportunities within Extension to meet our program delivery goals. This process has begun but is not nearly complete. I expect that current county staff will have an opportunity to provide input in this phase.

Should there be more expertise in a program area (4‐H youth development, agriculture and natural resources or family consumer sciences) than is deemed supportable in a specific geographic area, a new multi‐county job description may be developed to match programming needs for which eligible employees will apply. Concurrently, District Directors working with

CEDs may also explore partnership or sharing arrangements with entities such as Fair Boards or the Conservation Commission to help fund or share positions. Also concurrently, Extension administration will continue to explore opportunities for both personnel sharing with other agencies and entities and willingness to co‐fund needed positions. 

I want to emphasize that if a county anticipates being unable to afford a full position, they shouldn’t automatically downsize but think about what they might be able to afford with one or more nearby counties. For example, a county might want a piece of a horticulture or rural development or health educator position that is shared three ways (this could provide a new opportunity for an educator with an interest in a programmatic shift given additional training).

And, a county may want to share in different directions for different types of positions— horticulture in one direction and health in another. 

Future staffing investment decisions will be made carefully based on local input, demographic data, local funding and opportunities for partnering where they exist. The District Director, CED, program leaders/Assistant Directors and local officials will use all available information in determining the appropriate staffing level. No deadline has yet been set for phases in the process other than the necessary end point.

 

Who will be the final decision‐makers as to the program staffing in a county or multi‐county area?

Ultimately, the AVP with input from the District Directors and program leaders will develop aplan which will be submitted to the Human Resources director as well as Dean Coon. Decisionswill be based on a process that includes local stakeholder input as discussed elsewhere and isintended to serve OCES well in the long run. In the end, if any layoff is required, the plan mustbe approved up through OSU Human Resources and the Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action.

 

Can we have “stand alone” counties if we have sufficient funding to maintain our current cohort of educators and not share? 

We have long prided ourselves on being an interconnected system that serves our stakeholders statewide well so the term “stand alone” seems counterproductive. We are better and stronger together in many ways when we collaborate across county, district and even state lines. No Extension Service has sufficient resources to have experts in everything that might be of interest to their clientele. Similarly, several great educators in a county can’t possibly be the experts on everything in their program area. We would like to encourage creative thinking in how we might better serve stakeholders through sharing more broadly. Educators may have the ability to specialize more which can benefit them professionally and lead to the ability to offer new or different programming that would be appreciated by the local community. We recognize that counties who invest in more personnel have an increasingly larger proportional share of the salary and benefits costs, but OCES still has a significant investment in every local office. We hope that should a county have a neighbor that is lacking an educator in a specific program area that they will receive occasional help from adjacent counties with more educators. We will also continue to encourage multi-county meetings to conserve resources and web-based meetings to expand the opportunities available to everyone in Oklahoma. Area and state specialists will also play roles in helping OCES serve counties that have high needs but low levels of staff. 

 

OCES Future

Where are we headed longer term? 

Now that we are on a path to a more financially sustainable system, we can begin planning strategically for the future. Local input will be sought to inform decisions about the needs for programming as part of longer term strategic planning process. Community engagement sessions involving a broad base of people are planned for late spring (April-July) following facilitator training in late March. Facilitators may be students, OCES employees, OHCE or 4-H volunteers or other personnel. The community engagement sessions will be supplemented by information gathered through formal needs assessment through PACs and/or surveys in the county.  

 

What will we look like compared to other Extension Services when we have worked through our transition process?

The short answer is that we won’t look like anyone else; we’ll be our own best system given our budget constraints. Knowing that many other states nationally have also undergone dramatic changes motivated either by budget concerns or perceived needs for institutional overhauls (and sometimes both), I reached out to see if analysis had been done to identify best practices for managing transition processes or to evaluate the impact of changes on the stakeholders, for example, with perception of quality of the programming before and after. The answer was “no”. Here’s a short list of how every Extension Service is different:

  • We are funded differently. Some rely heavily on property tax. Others have large investments by local government in every position with all admin support provided by local sources. Some emphasize more grant and fee‐supported positions.
  • We started from different places with respect to administrative structure.
  • We have different types and numbers of farms.
  • We have different population mixes with respect to income levels, ethnicity, age, etc.
  • We have different political environments.
  • Our stakeholders have different needs.

My study of Extension Services in different states this past year drove home that no two are alike. We started from a different place than other states with respect to the type and relative number of positions in different program areas. Because I’ve collected some data for the

Southern region, I know that in Alabama and Louisiana the local presence is primarily multicounty educators. OCES has a greater percentage of ag FTEs in area specialists than most states; Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi have few if any. Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee have a significantly larger percentage of FCS FTEs per 100,000 people than Oklahoma. Arkansas and Mississippi have much larger investments in rural development FTEs per 100,000 people. Florida has a huge investment in horticulture FTEs.

What we’ve proposed in partnering will be different in that we’re not dictating a unit structure.

It may evolve from local interests but it also has the possibility of being more “organic” with partnering in multiple directions. It will require more work at the local level to encourage new thinking about collaborations across county lines.

My aspiration is that while we will be leaner, we will be:

  • An education provider of choice
  • An investment of choice
  • An employer of choice.

End Goal

  • Vibrant organization with a positive outlook
  • Working for greater good
  • Capacity to deliver high quality programs
  • Visible locally and digitally
  • Constantly improving
  • Accountable
  • Flexibility to address timely topics or issues
  • Quality of life for Extension personnel
  • Financial stability and sustainability 
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