Ag News Today
We love Florida 4-H. So many youth are successful in the adult world because they were in 4-H. But their dismissal policy for volunteers/leaders needs to be fixed. This story begins with the issues but ends with possible solutions for current volunteer/leaders to avoid this scenario, but until fixed it is still an issue. My Dad says, “There are no problems, only solutions.”
On a positive note many Florida County 4-H offices focus on retention with dismissal as a last resort. They meet with volunteers/leaders when issues arise etc. But other Counties send out surprise dismissal letters with no prior meetings stating “The office of academic unit may release a volunteer at any time, for any reason and without prior notice”. This has happened not only in Hillsborough County, but also Citrus County in 2019 as well as others through the years. As one State Representative said in a meeting about this issue, “Just because you can does not mean you have to be rude about it.”
Hillsborough County is one of the most recent examples of why Florida 4-H’s dismissal policy needs to be fixed. Seven adults in two large livestock 4-H clubs received surprise dismissal letters in August from their agents. They were surprised because 4-H had never reached out, asking to meet to let them know they had issues. Antioch Critters 4-H had over 65 youth and Legend Dairy 4-H had over 27 many who are special needs. The recipients of these dismissal letters are a Hillsborough County Sheriff Deputy, three agricultural teachers, a real estate agent, and two stay at home moms. They all admit they are from livestock clubs who have been vocal to their agents about problems they had with their policies and procedures. In fact, Legend Dairy 4-H Co-leaders Carolann Mullins and Jodie Shoffstall attended and said they spoke out at a UF/IFAS internal review of the Hillsborough County 4-H program in January 2020. It was a deeper internal review due to issues discovered in an earlier UF/IFAS review. I, Stephanie Collins attended one of the meetings as they were broken into sessions. It was sad to hear the complaints from those in attendance and those getting ready to go in from different walks of life, but good that UF was listening and working on problem solving. Afterwards Carolann put their concerns in writing to UF to make sure they were heard.
While the “ink” was still drying on the emailed, surprise, dismissal letters, they started getting calls from concerned parents. “What did you do wrong?” Was the common question. “We don’t know, but we will ask.” Was the common response. But, as they climbed the chain of command from County to State 4-H, they received email responses like this one- take note of the last sentence. “Thank you for your email and your passion for the 4-H program. Unfortunately, we will not be granting a meeting as requested. As you know from your volunteer enrollment forms, 4-H volunteers serve on an annual basis and their service must be reviewed each year. UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County 4-H has decided to release you from volunteer service. This is pursuant with the University of Florida’s volunteer policies found at https://hr.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/volunteer-policy.pdf Please note item 4.7 : Annual approval of volunteer services is required for each volunteer regardless of history or years of service. The department or academic unit may release a volunteer at any time, for any reason and without prior notice.” In the meantime, the County 4-H agents told parents they were temporary leaders of both livestock clubs to help them stay open. The County agents explained they planned to take the clubs in a different direction, but no details given. They did make it very clear this was temporary until new leaders were found. But most parents are too scared to step forward. “Could this happen to us?” Is their cry.
It took a village of supporters including adults, parents, youth and politicians asking UF/IFAS Extension to investigate these surprise dismissals. Thankfully UF/IFAS positively responded. Something they have done with other dismissal cases over the years. Florida 4-H’s head Dr Gutter, Stacey Ellison (second in charge of Fl 4-H) with Brenda Rogers the District Extension Director met with Antioch Critters 4-H leaders via Zoom. Since both volunteers are teachers it was easier for them to meet that way. For the Legend Dairy leaders Dr Gutter and Stacey Ellison made the 7 hour round trip to meet them with Brenda.
After reviewing all the information, they met again but individually with each person virtually with a final decision and explanation Sometimes, Stephan Gran the Hills. Cty. Extension Director would join in. Legend Dairy 4-H was first. Two of the people who got dismissal letters were not even volunteers. One was an agricultural teacher who attended as a parent of her child. Florida 4-H apologized for the mistake and removed the black mark of dismissal off her record.
BJ Fernandez received a volunteer dismissal letter but was not a volunteer. According to BJ, earlier in the 4-H year he had applied to become a volunteer. Throughout the year together with leader Carolann they kept checking on his status. But he was never approved. When he received the volunteer dismissal letter, he was shocked. After this was brought to 4-H’s attention a few days later BJ said he received an email stating he was now an approved leader but for the 2019-2020 4-H year. For a variety of reasons, he feels his LBGTQ civil rights were violated and is consulting a lawyer. 4-H did ask him in their final meeting to become a volunteer, but he refused.
Tanya Cook who was a volunteer was told after reviewing the information they wanted to reinstate her saying she was actually a good fit for 4-H. She refused voicing concerns that the problems in Hills. Cty still existed and not being addressed. They told her she was welcome back anytime.
The two Legend Dairy Co-leaders who spoke out at the deeper January internal review of Hills. 4-H were not reinstated. Jodie Shoffstall was told the dismissals were due to when their club split the prior year, the 4-H agent got involved and that agents are not supposed to help with club splits. 4-H also said the Hills. Cty. 4-H agents felt the leaders did not give them much respect after the split. Carolann the Deputy Sheriff was unable to work out a date for the final meeting. She has health issues and was tired of the fight for answers and reinstatement. Carolann asked Florida 4-H to send her a letter to let her know their final decision. They did not offer reinstatement nor give a reason.
Antioch Critters 4-H leaders are ag teachers. Melissa Sampson and Julia Kimbrell. They admit they verbalized to their Hills. Cty. 4-H agents their displeasure as to how the agents ran the program. Melissa Sampson was told she was dismissed because she turned in funds from a fundraiser late. 4-H offered to reinstate her. Melissa accepted, but is fearful, it could expectantly happen again. Julia in her final meeting was told she was dismissed because she missed a leader’s training.Stephan Gran the County Extension Director made it very clear that she was not allowed to give an excuse for missing the training. She admits that Hills. 4-H requires only 2 out of 4 leader trainings be made and she only made one. The agents do not require all four meetings to help volunteers meet the requirements. But, she wishes she could have explained why she missed the last meeting ( that can average between 4 to 6 hours). At the time she was a single, working mom. Her child was very ill for two weeks. In retrospect Julia wonders if her child had COVID before nationwide awareness. She does know he tested positive for the flu. Julia regrets she called in that she was missing instead of sending an email that can be tracked. As she searched her emails, she saw no correspondence from the 4-H agent checking up on her nor offering a make up class. But she was not allowed to explain why and she did not make the minimum of 2 required trainings. Dismissal upheld.
As far as the clubs – Antioch Critters has about 65 members. Currently, Melissa is the only leader left, so the club no longer falls under the 4-H two deep rule. The agents are temporarily involved to keep the club open, but there is uncertainty as parents are nervous about stepping up to become volunteers. Legend Dairy 4-H which had about 27 members dwindled to less than 10 at the Zoom club meeting with the agents. Upon learning this, the leaders and parents started a new club without the 4-H name and most of the youth joined. They plan to continue showing livestock and do the large variety of community outreaches they are known for.
While UF/IFAS/4-H have been generous over the years to re-evaluate dismissals and in several cases such as Hillsborough, Citrus and others Counties have overturned them, the name, reputation and in some cases the paying jobs of these unpaid volunteers are affected. Especially when they are surprised and cannot get an answer as to “why”. Volunteer/leaders feel backed into a corner and look for advice from advocates, lawyers, politicians, and others as they try to get answers. In some Counties where surprise letters are issued volunteer/ leaders are fearful they could be next if they speak out about issues, if they have a personality conflict with an agent etc. and not from breaking the law or clearly spelled out rule.
So, what are possible solutions for Florida 4-H volunteers?
First great news! Florida 4-H and UF/IFAS are working on developing new guideline recommendations to develop a focus on retaining with dismissals as last resort. 4-H says it will take time as they must work out the details then submit to UF for approval. But, while the State 4-H office is developing new policies, the possibility of surprise dismissals still exists.
Let’s pause and mention that sadly, sometimes dismissals are necessary. We even see that in the workplace. But often in the working world meetings to work out possible remedies are done first.
When you sign up to be a 4-H leader/volunteer, you sign a lot of papers stating you agree to different policies. In your excitement you may not read each page as carefully as you should. Slow down, read each page you are signing and if necessary, ask your agent questions.
Suggest an advisory board be developed with not only UF/IFAS/4-H staff but also supporters in the community or from around the State. Many years ago, Florida 4-H used to have a very large advisory board just like that. I know, as I was on it along with people like Susan McManus, Betty Jo Tompkins, bankers, business owners and more. While the Board no longer exists, maybe it is time to re-start it for fresh new ideas and approaches to issues.
“Communication is key”. Be positively proactive. Contact your local office and ask to see their dismissal policy for 4-H volunteers. Do you see within that policy efforts to retain rather than to dismiss ? If not, ask if you can work with them to develop positive policies. Other States like Indiana, California, Wyoming and others have policies that offer warning letters, require Agents to turn in paperwork with reasoning, encourage meetings with volunteer/ leaders to work out issues, if necessary probationary period as issues are resolved. Their focus is to try to resolve rather than dismiss.
4-H Leaders and volunteers make sure you are obeying the laws of our land and rules put forth by Florida 4-H and UF/IFAS as well as your County Extension and 4-H office. Communicate often with your agents to verify they are happy with your performance and keep a written copy. If they have an issue, ask to meet.
4-H is a great program. We have seen it take shy youth and turn them into leaders.
Nat Turner a black American slave wrote, “Good communication is the bridge between clarity and confusion.”
Different dismissal policies
Florida 4-H http://florida4h.org/staff/Volunteering/evaluating/Dismissing_a_volunteer.shtml
California ( XII D) http://4h.ucanr.edu/Resources/Policies/Chapter6/
Wyoming ( page 4 ) file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/policy-wyoming-4h%20(1).pdf
Part 3 of 3 part series - Scroll to see the other insurance articles
Insurance Option Ideas For Florida 4-H Members and Volunteers
When Showing As Private Citizens
In previous articles you can find on agnewstoday.com detailed explanation was given that this is a unusual year for 4-H members. Due to the different UF Phases for re-opening there will probably be times 4-H volunteers and members will be at an event as private citizens and not covered by 4-H insurance.
Well, I like to find solutions. Sally Alford Manning with Horse & Pony News and I have been working together on the insurance stories and ideas. Sally uses R.V.Nuccio & Associates for her dog club.
I do want to pause and say you never know where you will find 4-H members. When I talked to Kerri McDonald, CPCU the representative for R.V. Nuccio & Associates Insurance Brokers, told me she grew us as a 4-H member in California. She showed goats, dogs and horses loving every minute of it. Kerri laughed and talked about how her goats would even walk thru her house as a child. The love continued into adulthood. She no longer has goats but she does have her horse.She said they are great stress relievers during COVID
Back to insurance – Kerri told me that R.V. Nuccio & Associates Insurance Brokers has access to a wide range of policies. They do liability and accident insurance for individual 4-H Clubs, PTA, school sports, nonprofits and more all over the Country. The average cost for liability insurance starts $315 a year for liability and accidental insurance starts at around $123 and up per year. She said some events require a certificate to show and with their policies they make those available for easy download online. They also offer special event insurance. Shooting sports is something they do NOT do. She said has heard of other insurance carriers doing but for shooting sports cost often starts around $2,500 and up a year. They use an A+ rated, mulit billion-dollar insurance carrier. _
One thing she brought up in our conversation was they are starting to see liability claims due to Zoom meetings. Sometimes for instance someone accidently walks by in their underwear or discussion accidently heard – those can become liability issues.
Below are links Kerri gave for more information
“Please find the website that offers insurance coverage for 4-H Clubs, please check out the resource section. Safety guide. Clubs can purchase different types of coverage on this site. Feel free to go in and play with the quotes for the user experience. Typically, 4-H clubs purchase the General Liability coverage as well as the Accident Medical coverage.
This is the website for special events that individuals might want to have insurance for if they are hosting an event.
This is our corporate website for information on our company
If you want to email her directly with questions firstname.lastname@example.org
I did run across another company Enpica - https://enpica.com/ While I did not interview them I recommend you call them as well to compare.
As you talk to the companies remember to ask for specifics of what do they cover. Research their ratings etc. Leave no stone unturned as you want a policy that works for you and your club, event or fair.
Are you covered by 4-H Insurance?
Can You Wear 4-H Green (Name and Emblem)
In the Showring
With UF COVID Policies?
By Stephanie Collins
The short answer - UF has what are called re-opening Phases. These determine whether a 4-H member can show as a member with insurance or if they must show as a private citizen and not as a member for that event/show with no coverage (this applies to volunteers too) According to Florida 4-H when showing as a private citizen, youth are allowed to wear the clothes, but remember they are not covered by insurance nor considered 4-H members at that show/event.
Stacey Ellison (2nd in charge of Florida 4-H) in regards to situations where 4-H members have to show as private citizens had a great explanation: “Just like they can wear their 4-H t-shirt to a store, they can wear their 4-H green to show an animal anywhere.”
The probability members will be showing as private citizens at some events during this pandemic is high. That is what makes this story and knowing the details so important.
Realistically, there is NO way the Florida State Fair nor most County Fairs/Events can operate with zero people allowed (UF Phase 1) , less than 10 people (UF Phase 2), maybe they can do less than 50 people indoors or no more than 250 people outdoors ( UF Phase 3), but certainly not the Florida State Fair. If your County is in the last Phase (UF Phase 4) there are no in person limits UNLESS the County you are going to compete in; is in a stricter Phase. UF Phases are known to fluctuate as virus loads jostle up and down per County making it imperative you stay in communication with your County 4-H Agent before attending any show/event.
To make clearer here are some examples:
EXAMPLE SCENARIO #1: Your County is in UF Phase 3 and your County Fair has an outdoor pavilion, are making sure no more than 250 are in attendance*, adhering to social distancing, masks, and sanitizing. Members can show as 4-H and are covered by insurance as well as the 4-H volunteers.
EXAMPLE SCENARIO #2: Same as above EXCEPT 251 people attend. You are no longer covered under the name and emblem, are considered a private citizen with no 4-H accident nor liability insurance. You can wear the clothes – but you will not have the benefits.
EXAMPLE SCENARIO #3: There is a 4-H approved event in another County that is in UF Phase 3 ( groups up to 50 indoors or 250 outdoors*) but your County is in UF Phase 2 ( 10 people or less) . In that case youth and volunteers will have to attend as private citizens, not as members of 4-H and are not covered by 4-H insurance and benefits. You are held to the UF Phase set by your home County Extension Office NOT by the UF Phase of the County you are competing in. You can wear the clothes – but you will not have the benefits.
EXAMPLE SCENARIO #4 – You go to a non-approved event. Then you are a private citizen, not considered member of 4-H at that event with no insurance nor benefits same with volunteers. But you can wear the clothes.
Warning! Do not assume a Fair/Event or even the Florida State Fair will have coverage. Ask. You may want to consider purchasing insurance for when “operating” as a private citizen.
To stay within UF/4-H policies while at an approved show/event:
“For Livestock/Equine Events – While in-ring, participants may elect to remove their mask, however, show participants must wear face coverings when not in the ring competing. During time of competition, physical distancing (6 feet minimum) must be maintained. Competitors who choose to wear a face covering during the competition may not be penalized.” Florida 4-H COVID Townhall
Shooting sports when on the firing line for safety purposes, shooting sports are mask exempt. But masks must be worn when outside the firing line.
Question: “Can animals be penned next to one another for a show, community barn, etc.? Typically, animals should be distanced as well, for the simplest reason that feeding, and watering would put youth in close proximity to others. As an alternative, a feeing schedule could be arranged such that participants are never in the same location at the same time.” Florida 4-H COVID Townhall
If you go to a show/ event that is approved, I suggest you write down the date, Phase your County is in and if necessary the Phase for the County the event is in, number of people in attendance as well as photos to show social distancing, face masks and sanitization techniques as proof if needed.
Florida 4-H said they want youth to show, but safely. 4-H is a great program. With millions of youth worldwide benefiting. If you have any questions or need more information – contact your County 4-H Agent as Stacey said, “Things are constantly changing.”
For more details on the different UF Phases go to http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UF-IFAS-Extension-Phase-3-Event-Policies-Covid-9_14_2020.pdf
For excellent source of details watch the Florida 4-H COVID Townhall. It goes into lots of details Florida 4-H COVID Townhall Meeting. I HIGHLY suggest volunteers and members take an hour out of their day and listen. https://ufl.zoom.us/rec/play/ucIrdOippzo3Tt3HtQSDBqQtW46_La-shyAXr6YLzxnmUSUDNVWkbuMaN7PkYeiIJQ--sPIa1jDFWuT4?continueMode=true&_x_zm_rtaid=Vfot67yaTdqN4VNX9UZ4iw.1596643938391.61b29895bc8db2af7364dd86baa6667d&_x_zm_rhtaid=427&fbclid=IwAR04N6B6UXY4FxDwk-_ltMXOIC3_k_8pQXXpVdUO22rZXqBg9KftnDYLIFg
Florida 4-H COVID Policies
Must Be Followed To Avoid Possible Dismissal
By Stephanie Collins
Keeping members and volunteers safe is very important to Florida 4-H. Thus they made it very clear in their Florida 4-H COVID Townhall meeting July 28th that failure to comply with UF/IFAS/4-H COVID policies can result in a volunteer, youth member or parent “being removed from their association with 4-H” . I realize that is a strong opening statement, but this is a serious topic with serious repercussions. As a side note, they also stated Florida 4-H insurance: “ does not provide illness coverage for Covid-19”. Another important detail for members and volunteers to know.
In order to obey their policies, the first thing you need to know is what Phase your County Extension/4-H office is in. No matter what Phase UF recommends, your County Extension may choose to be in a stricter Phase. For instance, if UF recommends Phase 3, your County may choose to be Phase 1 or 2 due to the virus load in your County. Phases can jostle back and forth. Assumptions as to what Phase you are in is not an option, ask your 4-H Agent.
Below are the different UF Phases followed by some example scenarios.
“Phase 1: No face to face programs. Virtual programs allowed”
“Phase 2: One on one appointments are allowed. No face to face group programs. Virtual programs allowed.” – (NOTE: I also saw in my research that for Phase 2 “groups of up to ten can meet (for 4-H this would mean up to 8 youth and 2 adults)” if approved.
“Phase 3: Approval to host face to face programs with more than 10 people may now be requested.”
“Indoors: The total number of people for indoor events must be one half of the capacity of the facility as determined by the state Fire Marshall, must not exceed 50 and must maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from one another. Therefore, the actual capacity may limit enrollment below 50. If you have a large indoor venue, you may operate it at up to 50% of capacity while complying with the face covering and social distancing requirements. Depending on the venue layout and space available to ensure the minimum prescribed physical distancing requirement, the maximum attendance could be less than 50% of building capacity.”
“Outdoors: 250 people maximum, but venue managers have the latitude to set lower maximum attendance capacities for their venues.”
“Phase 4: Face to face programs allowed -no social distancing required; face coverings TBD.”UF/IFAS Phase 3 Event Policies Covid - link bottom of article
Now that you know the UF Phases with details you can start implementing their policies. Below are some example scenarios to demonstrate how you can apply their policies to your Club.
Example Scenario for Phase 1- You hold an in-person meeting – policy is broken, and you are NOT covered by insurance.
Example Scenario for Phase 2: You requested and have approval from your County 4-H office. Being diligent you make sure no more than 10 people are present at your Club meeting (that includes parents, family members etc.) , social distancing is adhered to and sanitizing in place. But, one person refuses to wear a mask. Policy is broken and there is no insurance coverage. The program must cease immediately, and everyone must exit if not resolved. If a youth is unable to wear a mask due to medical type issues – they must have prior approval from 4-H to be exempt, otherwise policy is broken. Do not accept verbal. Only accept written approvals.
Note: Livestock/Equine and Shooting Sports are mask exempt when in the show/practice ring or firing line for safety purposes. But masks must be worn when outside the ring/line.
Example Scenario for Phase 3: The County does not approve your request for face to face meetings stating you can do them virtually. You host an in person meeting anyhow. Policy is broken and you are not covered by insurance.
Example Scenario for Phase 3 - You attend an approved event that has a pre-registration process, social distancing, masks, and sanitization in place. The event is indoors, and 51 people are in attendance instead of 50. Policy is broken and you are not covered by insurance.
When you apply with your 4-H Agent for approval, here is what your Agent is looking for.
"Approval will be provided if appropriate safety measures are followed. For example, face coverings are required at all UF/IFAS Extension in-person events, indoors and outdoors, regardless of group size. Also, social distancing (minimum of 6 feet) must be maintained." Plus groups are to follow the policy for whatever Phase your County is in.
Question: “Are we as leaders covered if we end up in a situation that a member of the 4-H gathering contracts COVID 19 and they want to come back at us? If the volunteer was an approved county volunteer ( with an annual letter of appointment) and the gathering was approved through the Essential Activities portal and carried out as agreed upon, then yes the University of Florida will back you up.” Florida 4-H COVID Townhall Meeting
Masks and sanitizing equipment all come at a cost for our 4-H volunteers. Florida 4-H suggests County 4-H offices use some of their membership fees to help. Ask your 4-H Agent if you need help purchasing masks and/or sanitizing supplies. According to Stacey Ellison ( 2nd in charge of Florida 4-H ) "Florida 4-H did purchase bandana style facial coverings that were sent out to all Counties who did not al ready have access. Their hope is if someone shows up without one ( things happen) 4-H can provide." Note: 4-H said in their Townhall Meeting there were no protocols on how to sanitize.
Remember Florida 4-H made it very clear that failure to comply to UF COVID policies can result in a volunteer, youth member or parent being dismissed from 4-H. Be proactive. Do NOT accept verbal – get everything in writing. Know your County’s Phase. Develop a dated sign in sheet with phase # listed. Take photos showing social distancing, masks and sanitizing in place. Be proactive. You never know when you may need to prove you followed policies.
Agents - while this virus with all the changes is tough for you to navigate, it is tough for your volunteers too. Keeping youth and volunteers safe is a team effort. Good, clear communication from all our County Agents with volunteers is crucial during this pandemic.
Most of the information above was gleaned from the Florida 4-H COVID Townhall Meeting. I HIGHLY suggest volunteers and members take an hour out of their day and listen. https://ufl.zoom.us/rec/play/ucIrdOippzo3Tt3HtQSDBqQtW46_La-shyAXr6YLzxnmUSUDNVWkbuMaN7PkYeiIJQ--sPIa1jDFWuT4?continueMode=true&_x_zm_rtaid=Vfot67yaTdqN4VNX9UZ4iw.1596643938391.61b29895bc8db2af7364dd86baa6667d&_x_zm_rhtaid=427&fbclid=IwAR04N6B6UXY4FxDwk-_ltMXOIC3_k_8pQXXpVdUO22rZXqBg9KftnDYLIFg
Also here is link for the different phases http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UF-IFAS-Extension-Phase-3-Event-Policies-Covid-9_14_2020.pdf
Other information was gleaned from emails, searches and conversations.
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