Hayden High School Had a Farm, E-I-E-I-O

The Center for Agribusiness and Equine Science was supposed to help desegregate the Phoenix Union High School District. Now the same lawsuit that created it is shutting it down.

One morning, the early risers found a lamb staggering, dehydrated, its eyes rolling back in its head, and with the skills they'd learned in their vet tech class, they inserted an IV tube in its neck and started a bag of saline solution, saving its life.

On another morning, they found a cow giving birth to a breached calf.
"We all tried to pull that calf out," says teacher Trish Davis. Mother and calf are doing fine.

"So many people get the idea that this equine science program is a bunch of high school students who come down and pet horses all day, and that is really not the case," says parent Jeff Sparks.

In a greenhouse on the property, the students grow flats of flowers and herbs under Davis' supervision. Scattered among the buildings are landscaping projects with pools and trees and irrigation lines, an aviary with several species of birds that the students have raised, and a rodeo grounds.

There are eight labs in outbuildings behind the riding arena, labs that have made college instructors green with jealousy. They have sinks and Bunsen burners, yes, but also more esoteric pieces of equipment such as the freestanding, life-size cow's behind that is meant as a practicum for artificial-insemination techniques.

In the vet tech lab, students have assisted the school's full-time veterinarian, Dr. Melanie Pyeatt, as she removed a tumor from a horse's eyelid and a cancerous testicle from a stallion. The lab offers veterinary clinics for local people.

In yet another lab, 16-year-old Jennifer Gibson, a self-assured young lady, worked up a study that showed a link between waterborne streptococcus and a hoof disease that afflicts cattle; that work won her first place at the Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair and another award at the Maricopa County Fair, as well as awards from the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Kodak and SRP.

Students have also recently done studies on behalf of a local company that manufactures a chemical to clear out irrigation lines to see how that chemical affects the plants it comes in contact with.

And for fun, the Farm has a rodeo team, a tractor-driving team, a chapter of Future Farmers of America.

"This is agriculture as it should be," adds Trish Davis.
Dennis Fiscus of the Arizona Department of Education says, "We offer four types of ag programs in the entire state--animal science, plant science, horticulture and renewable natural resources. They're the only program that offers all four."

The students come out either college-bound or ready to work in stables, nurseries and the food industry. According to Dave Iwanski, executive vice president of the Agri-Business Council of Arizona, agriculture and agribusiness (food processing and other related industries) contribute about $32 billion each year to the state's budget, and many of the agribusiness companies, Iwanski says, "are having difficulty filling entry-level, high-paying jobs.

"To shut that program down just baffles me," says Iwanski.
Though the Farm is officially part of Carl Hayden High School, it is six miles away, which is a bone of contention for the lawyer Al Flores.

"It's off-campus, so the kids don't actually go to Carl Hayden," he says. The white students attracted by the magnet from outside Hayden's drawing area, in other words, really aren't mingling with the minority students, he contends. But Flores has lobbied the board against putting it at the proposed Cesar Chavez school, either.

A fact often glossed over by critics is that most of the Anglo students are urban kids from blue-collar families, not rich suburbanites taking advantage of the system. Misperceptions of the Farm do not stop there. Even former Carl Hayden principal Kino Flores (no relation to Al Flores) was at first afraid of cultural stereotyped baggage.

"When I came in, I questioned the same thing. I said, 'Hey, we're trying to get out of the fields, and now you're trying to put us back in,'" Kino Flores says.

"It's not about picking grapes, it's not about picking cotton," Jeff Sparks adds.

If the Farm is miles from Carl Hayden in distance, it is light-years away in mood.

Anthony Young, 18, was sent to Phoenix to live with relatives to get him away from the perils of the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.

"It's a little more wild there at Carl Hayden," Young says. "It's like you act wild with your friends, and when you're at your job, you act another way. You act wild at Carl Hayden, and then you come down here, it's like you're at your job. You're calm. I've learned to stop and think down here."

Young, who is African American, expects to get an internship with the U.S. Forest Service this summer and attend college next year to study zoology.

Flores says that minority students are underrepresented at the Farm, but in fact, 44 percent of the student population is minority, and it could be higher if the magnet program were structured differently; because the magnets were conceived as a means of balancing ethnic groups at the schools, a Hispanic student from South Mountain High School, for example, could not attend the Farm magnet because Carl Hayden High School, its parent, already has too many Hispanic students.

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