Youth served on school board

MARSHALL – There were two new faces sitting alongside Marshall School Board members at the July board meeting last week as Marshall High School when seniors Danny West and Sydney Hey officially began their student representation duties.

“You will certainly be setting the tone for future reps,” Superintendent Klint Willert said.

The meeting marked the first attendance of the student representatives, who went through an extensive interview process before being selected to their new position.

“I know I can speak for the governance committee members and they can certainly capitalize on this, but very impressed with the interview process,” Willert said. “An application process was required and the governance subcommittee did do the interview process. We’re certainly very impressed with both of you. We’re excited to have you here.”

In his bio, West was noted for being “an outgoing, sociable person that really enjoys being involved.” In addition to being very tech savvy, West said he also enjoyed playing the piano, singing and playing sports.

“I like to keep myself busy and am a very hard worker,” he said.

West is involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities at MHS, including speech, track, marching band, Roaring 20s, Catalyst, the spring play and Link Crew. In addition to soccer, West has also been active in his church and is a member of the National Honor Society, where he learned about the student board rep opportunity.

“I know Mr. Willert had given the opportunity to student council and NHS students to apply for this,” West said. “I’m in NHS so I decided that I’d like to apply for it. My main goal out of it is basically, to improve our school because I feel like there’s areas that can be improved and I want to make a positive impact on our school. I don’t want to be a student that passively sits by, when I could bring change.”

West’s track record could certainly lead one to believe that he could indeed make things happen. Since he was in elementary school, West has been creating videos, sparking a passion that continues today.

“Recently, I’ve started my own small business as a freelance videographer and have worked with various local businesses and friends to produce short commercials,” he said. “My dream would be to do this as a living and to go to film school.”

Hey participates in MHS activities such as marching band, swim team, student council, Link Crew, golf team and Ambassadors. She also stays busy in a variety of other ways.

“Besides doing these various activities, some of my hobbies include hanging out with friends and family, exercising, reading, working at Hy-Vee Gas, painting my nails and other various teenage girl things,” Hey said.

Hey pointed out that she was interested in finding out how the school board operated.

“The reason I wanted to do this is because I found it very interesting and thought it would be quite the experience,” she said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn how our school system works.”

Though many of the issues are complex, Hey hopes she can be of assistance to board members seeking student input.

“I have a great sense of humor and hope that you think I’m as humorous as my friends and I think I am,” Hey said. “I’m a kind-hearted person that likes to have fun, but I also know when business needs to be done. I’m very excited to have this opportunity and I thank you all for including me in this.”

Willert pointed out that the idea to have student representation came from attending the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) Leadership Conference.

“Our school board members and I learned about representatives and discussed how a student rep could add the voice of the students to school board actions in decisions that directly impact students,” he said. “Furthermore, we found that encouraging students to become actively involved in a civic role would only help foster the development and learning opportunities for our students.”

While the new student representatives can join in on discussions, they won’t have the opportunity to officially vote or be present in closed sessions.

“The student reps will not be able to vote or to take action on items,” Willert said. “However, the students are encouraged to offer input and insights on important matters that impact students. The student reps are also asked to present a board report at each action meeting that shares significant news and events occurring in the districts five school buildings.”

Amidst the discussion regarding assessments on Monday night, West and Hey got their first “assignment” from board members. Willert noted that in the past, legislation required that students pass the grad assessment in order to receive a diploma but that some changes are occurring.

“It’s always been a mystery piece,” Willert said. “We never knew what skill set they were looking for or what type of questions were on it. Now you don’t have to pass, so we have to decide what that means for our district and what it means for the 2014 class.”

While some feel that it is “dumbing down the diploma” in Minnesota, Willert said he doesn’t believe that is the case. Students will be still required to score high enough on the ACT, ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) or other tests.

“There will still be a menu of choices that students can take,” Willert said. “We still require a rigorous course of study. It’s just moved away from a single, high-stakes option.”

Before the August meetings, board members were optimistic the new student reps would be able to gauge student opinions on the matter.

“The student rep idea is something that very few school districts have implemented,” Willert said. “However, our school district believes in involving our constituents, all constituents, in the important work of the school board. What better way to capture the voice of our students than to have them at the school board table to offer their insights and perspectives on issues that impact them.”

Hey and West affirmed their commitment to serve as education advocates by taking an oath and signing the school board member oath of office form.