by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Sartell High School students “take turns” being the student representative on the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board meetings. It’s the first time in its history the board includes a student representative.
Having a student join the meetings is just one effort for the newly reconstituted board to improve communication with the public it serves, including students and parents. Other efforts include holding some school-board meetings in St. Stephen, making videotaped meetings available via computer and holding occasional informal meetings with the public.
The three student representatives are Brady Anderson, Sienna Schneider and Hannah Tilstra. When the board decided to include a student representative, those three students applied and were accepted by a school-board committee. Students on the board are non-voting members and serve in an advisory capacity and as liaisons between the board and the student body.
Tilstra, Schneider and Anderson are certainly not new to school-board issues. Last year, all three became active when the school board voted to discontinue traditional spring break. That decision riled many parents and students because they said it was hastily arrived at with virtually no public input. Schneider, Anderson and Tilstra, who questioned the spring-break decision, became involved at that time. At one school-board meeting about the cancellation of spring break, Tilstra and other students were present. They were disappointed student representatives had not been chosen to tell the students’ side of the story, and so Tilstra and Schneider there and then decided to address the board, telling them why spring break should not have been dropped and why students should have been taken into account before the decision was made. Shortly after that, the two young women, Anderson and others started a campaign to bring back spring break, complete with T-shirts that said, “Sartell Spring Break. Make It Happen.” They also started a website called “Student Voices,” a forum where students could register their ideas, suggestions, questions and complaints. All of their efforts helped begin a vigorous, healthy schoolwide debate on spring break and other issues.
A recent development, which is an outgrowth of that group, is the high school’s “Hydration Station,” a place in the school where students can refill their water bottles instead of buying new ones all the time and tossing the “empties.” It has not yet been installed, but it’s “ready to go,” Tilstra told the Sartell Newsleader during a recent interview.
“The board will be discussing a new calendar for the schools,” Tilstra said. “We want to get more students involved with the calendar discussion. To start that, we began a three-question survey and are asking students whether we should have spring break or a series of long weekends (as decided last year by the school board). We are asking students what are the pros and cons of having spring break and what are the pros and cons of having long weekends.”
Tilstra was student representative and sat at the school-board meeting table during its second meeting this year. The three will alternate in upcoming meetings, although the two not sitting up front at the table will try to attend the meetings and listen from the audience area.
The members of the school board are Michelle Meyer, chair; Mary McCabe, vice chair; Jason Nies, clerk/treasurer; and directors Pam Raden, Dan Riordan and Krista Durrwachter. Four of those –Durrwachter, Meyer, Nies and Raden – were elected last November.