AgriLife Extension Questions & Answers
COVID forms are required for overnight events. They are not required for day events, but remember to follow your county CDC guidance.
This information can be found at https://od.tamu.edu/evaluation-overview/.
We are reviewing the demographic information, but some categories must be used due to funding (LBB, etc.)
In response to the COVID Stress Assessment Summary:
• Yes, increased resources and products have been developed by professional services units to support virtual education delivery.
• Professional services have revamped their websites to be more comprehensive and easier to navigate.
• Implemented Tech Tuesday Trainings.
• Human Resources provided several resources via e-news that are still available in the archives section ( https://agrilifeas.tamu.edu/e-news/).
• As a part of the agency strategic plan position descriptions are being reviewed and updated.
• The agency reviews and applies COVID protocol as the Governor’s guidance, Texas A&M University System and CDC guidance is updated. Job expectations are adapted based on ability to deliver virtual programming and guidance regarding face-to-face delivery.
• Regional Impact reports highlighted the response and adaption to COVID. These types of adaptions were considered when annual performance evaluations were conducted.
• Central Leadership Team has been made aware of perceived inconsistencies. Associate Directors continue to review process and monitor decision making for the most consistent application of policy and treatment of employees.
• This month the agency working in conjunction with administrative services will engage supervisors and their employees in planning and tracking their leave through the fiscal year.
• The agency awarded administrative leave to employees who have gone beyond the scope of their work in the response to COVID. Administrative leave was awarded in December and will also be awarded in August. There is also a renewed commitment to encourage employees to fully utilize their vacation leave, which was also a challenge prior to COVID.
• Yes, Human Resources continues to communicate the resources available through GuidanceResources® and other Texas A&M University System resources regarding stress.
• The Vice Chancellor’s office continues to communicate information related to Covid testing and vaccination and hosts a website with information https://agrilife.tamu.edu/coronavirus
• The employee assistance program through GuidanceResources is available 24/7: https://agrilifeas.tamu.edu/hr/about-us/eap/
• This is a Texas A&M University System policy, and the agency encourages all employees to take advantage of the wellness release time allowed. As an agency we will work to expand the three days a week for 30 minutes allotment, but it is contingent on changing the system policy.
• Alternate work location approvals are now back to prior COVID process approval. All requests go through Human Resources with final approval by the Director’s office.
• Supervisors have been coached on working with program leaders to ensure consistency across the agency when applying AWL.
Yes, the intent is to have an event management system that will be available to County Programs.
The communications strategy being developed within the strategic plan will include AgriLife Research as a target for communications. This will include administrators, faculty, and staff within Research. There are other efforts underway to expand our connectivity with Research. The AgriLife strategic plan has elements related to better connecting across AgriLife entities. Also, as Extension explores ways to coordinate programs better, this should allow us to connect at the programmatic level with our colleagues in Research.
Absolutely! You will soon see an invitation to volunteer for steering committees.
The agent’s primary role has always been and will continue to be to address the needs of their local constituents through Extension education. If there are opportunities for an agent’s educational programming to be delivered virtually and the audience is expanded, that is great. Tools to reach people online should be used where appropriate.
Virtual programming will definitely be a part of our future but will never replace the need for face-to-face education. The relationships that our Agents have locally are what makes Extension unique and successful. A comprehensive educational approach will include all types of outreach – face-to-face, virtual, group, individual, print, social media, etc.
Our network and presence in counties is critical to our success moving forward. We have piloted some multi-county specialty agent positions in some places to supplement and enhance what our local agents are doing and feel like that is a possibility going forward. Those positions would be considered on a case-by-case basis and where they have the greatest potential to expand our efforts.
Historically, AgriLife Extension has protected its network of agents to a greater degree than it has other types of positions. Over the past ten years, AgriLife Extension has lost 11% of its agents. By comparison, it has lost 26% of its specialists. Furthermore, disproportionally large reductions in support positions has pushed certain responsibilities onto agents. (These responsibilities include marketing and promotion of programs, development of websites/blogs/podcasts, etc.) This additional workload creates real barriers and burdens for both agents and specialists. If a permanent reduction in the state budget occurs, then the administration will seek to balance the following considerations; 1) retain the agent network that is so valuable to serving Texans in all communities, 2) ensure that agents are supported by specialists with deep subject matter knowledge, and 3) strive to support agents and specialists with experts in marketing and communications, program and product development, etc. Over the last 16 years, upper administration has been cut by 63%.
The agency submits a budget to the TAMUS Board for approval, in this process the agency submits its salary plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Based on the plan approved, salary plans are executed, funding sources including BLTX would be in the plan for considerations.
BLTX has followed the agency salary policies over the years. There have been a few years they have done cost of living for their paraprofessionals. Prior to the transition to CEA titles, there was not much coordination with County Programs. Now that the transition has happened the BLTX agents will follow CEA recommendation processes. We’ve not had a merit cycle since their transition.
Requests can funnel down to the agency through TDEM/SOC for consideration. Agency decisions are made on a case-by-case basis depending on requests. Reimbursements can vary by incident. Reimbursements may generate one-time salary savings and be reallocated and spent within timeframes the funding is available. All funding is spent in support of the agency mission and within fund restrictions.
Agents are asked to complete a COVID Addendum to their Agent Achievement Report to make certain that supervisors are aware of all impacts that COVID has had on their programming. DEAs and CEDs are fully aware of the situation and will evaluate agents fairly and according to the work they have done in 2020, whether it be programming or COVID response.
This has likely been answered since it was submitted, but just in case… We are not directly involved in administering tests to faculty, staff, or students. Our role is to serve as a resource to help them become trained if needed, assist with data entry and generally be a connection between the school and the resources they need to be effective. No one that is at risk will be asked to go into a school and assist. The test kits are being delivered by DAR Agents, along with a form directing them to assistive resources. A contact for their local Agent is included should they need additional help.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service supports supervisors and managers in implementing alternate work locations to meet the needs of the unit while helping to meet the employee’s needs and preferences, as long as such agreements serve to maintain or enhance the productivity or quality of services provided by the unit. Unit operational requirements take precedence over an employee’s request for an alternate work location.
Validation is a process that was originally proposed by Extension to the shows as a way to keep things on a level playing field for our youth members and maintain the integrity of our program. Shows agreed to support our efforts and make validation required for exhibitors to enter their shows. The livestock shows return millions of dollars per year to our youth members through premiums and scholarships, as well as the sponsorship of our educational efforts across the state. Validation certainly does take some time, as does the rest of our jobs, but we believe it is an investment in our 4-H livestock program that is a great use of that time and resources.
We used the calendar invite with the last webinar and will continue to do this. We have worked out the technical issues.
As noted in the previous response about Reduction in Force, we were notified in May from the State of a 5% budget rescission for the 2020-2021 biennium. A plan for addressing the rescission ($4.8M) has been submitted. We are awaiting confirmation of plan acceptance. Pending acceptance, there is no planned RIF within Extension currently. In August/September we will submit a legislative appropriation request for fiscal years 2022-2023 for state appropriations. The guidance received will determine future actions that may be required.
The agency will present its post-COVID budget for the 2021 fiscal year for approval to the Texas A&M System Board of Regents in August. Due to the budget rescission and economic uncertainty, the budget does not include a plan for merit. The fiscal years 2022-2023 budgets will not be known until after May of 2021.
We were notified in May from the State of a 5% budget rescission for the 2020-2021 biennium. A plan for addressing the rescission ($4.8M) has been submitted. We are awaiting confirmation of plan acceptance. Pending acceptance, there is no planned RIF within Extension currently. In August/September we will submit a legislative appropriation request for fiscal years 2022-2023 for state appropriations. The guidance received will determine future actions that may be required.
Historically, AgriLife Extension has protected its network of agents to a greater degree than it has other types of positions. Over the past 10 years, AgriLife Extension has lost 11% of its agents. By comparison, it has lost 26% of its specialists. Furthermore, disproportionally large reductions in support positions have pushed certain responsibilities onto agents. (These responsibilities include marketing and promotion of programs, development of websites/blogs/podcasts, etc.)
This additional workload creates real barriers and burdens for both agents and specialists. If a permanent reduction in the state budget occurs, then the administration will seek to balance the following considerations:
– Retain the agent network that is so valuable to serving Texans in all communities.
– Ensure that agents are supported by specialists with deep subject matter knowledge.
– Strive to support agents and specialists with experts in marketing and communications, program and product development, etc. Over the last 16 years, upper administration has been cut by 63%.
Yes, we understand the value. No plans to eliminate these positions at this time.
An “early out” would only apply to a few employees remaining on the civil service retirement system. It is not currently an option for those employees.
We were notified in May from the State of a 5% budget rescission for the 2020-2021 biennium. A plan for addressing the rescission ($4.8M) has been submitted. We are awaiting confirmation of plan acceptance. Pending acceptance, there is no planned RIF within Extension currently. In August/September we will submit a legislative appropriation request for fiscal years 2022-2023 for state appropriations. Pending guidance received, will determine future actions that may be required.
This will be a key element of AgriLife Extension’s long-term success. There has been no specific plan for diversifying the agency’s workforce. In the agency’s new business model, we will establish approaches to identifying appropriate candidates, recruiting them to apply for open positions, and retaining them once employed. Because this is currently a future aspiration, there are no specifics to share at this point. However, it may include items such as internship opportunities, graduate assistantships, establishing partnerships with other degree-granting institutions, identifying better communication options to notify potential candidates of job opportunities, etc.
The administrative teams in AgriLife Extension and Prairie View’s Cooperative Extension Program have jointly charged a working group to explore the agencies and make recommendations on items to address. That working group will be reaching out to agency personnel for input before making recommendations to the administrative teams of both agencies.
The non-overnight meal reimbursement is an IRS regulation. The initiative is for $3.4M annually with 27 authorized positions. Of that 19 are DAR agents across the state. The other 8 are specialists and a business coordinator. Funds also go to support strike teams’ efforts and operations of the initiative.
Leadership and engagement of emergency management and response are needed at all levels of the agency. Often a CLT member is working and mentoring other newer employees to ensure our strike team members are supported. Additionally, our CLT members are working side by side with their counterparts from other agencies.
There is a plan to provide follow-up training and resources to equip AgriLife Extension employees to deliver distance education and to fully utilize the tools available. A plan should be shared by early to mid-August.
Calendar submissions are made by emailing ExtensionNotices@ag.tamu.edu. Currently, these submissions are being received at the regional level as the new calendar system is implemented. County program listings will soon be made available and tagged appropriately to identify program area, location, other details. The overall goal is to offer a statewide events calendar.
AgriLife Communications is currently going through a unit review to assess the next steps in supporting a strategic approach to marketing and communications. The “free” the curriculum effort has been paused until next steps are identified for the AgriLife Communications team (by mid-August).
AgriLife Extension benefits greatly from the investment that the federal, state, and county governments provide to us. However, if we were to rely solely on those contributions, the agency would be much smaller and its capacity to serve Texans would be diminished. In order to remain viable, Extension must generate revenues to supplement the governmental investments. Ideally, programs would take several items into account when deciding whether, and how much, to charge for an offering. Target audience and competition are two key factors. As part of our strategic planning process, we will be exploring product pricing and ways to engage clientele/customers through a portfolio of products that may range in price, including free products.
Counties and agency reimbursement are separate claims with TDEM and FEMA. For the current COVID-19 response, the agency has an intrasystem agreement in place with TDEM for several tasks that the agency is collaborating on (i.e. PPE and medical distributions, contact tracing, etc). The agency will seek task reimbursement based on eligible agency expenditures.
Federal relief funds have been channeled through the appropriate Federal agencies ( i.e. housing through HUD, Ag. through USDA etc…). Funds coming directly to the state are facilitated by TDEM (i.e. FEMA).
Employees can take advantage of the Lunch with Leadership Teams webinars to stay current on agency programming and activities. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions during the live chat and webinar replays are made available via a private link emailed to all Extension Employees. Other communications such as the frequent COVID-19 Agency Updates and Director’s Message are channels to stay connected. At all times, any questions or concerns can also be emailed directly to the Associate Director for Communications for a prompt response.
Depending on face-to-face meeting protocols, interaction with administration will still occur at Association Board and Annual Conference meetings, spring and fall district and regional conferences, departmental and unit retreats, and other identified program meetings and conferences.