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Friday, October 15, 2010
Students Advise Superintendent
By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque's high school students have noticed their classes are larger this year. They think tardies and absences are problems at their schools, and they think communication between adults is sometimes lacking.
But they also feel cared about at school and appreciate the variety of clubs, sports and dual credit opportunities they have. Many speak highly of their teachers and principals.
These 34 students — two from each comprehensive high school, plus representation from the alternative schools — are part of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council, which met for the first time Thursday and will meet monthly to discuss issues facing the district.
Superintendent Winston Brooks said he has wanted to establish such a council since he arrived in Albuquerque in the spring of 2008.
He said it will give him insight into how students feel about their schools, and he will go to them with proposed policy changes, budget proposals and other issues.
The students were chosen by their principals, who were asked to choose a diverse group of students who are leaders and can influence their peers.
The result is that members include teens of all different skin colors and social groups. Athletes, cheerleaders, actors and jewelry-makers are all part of the council.
Brooks said the group will soon undertake the serious business of advising him on budget cuts and other topics. But Thursday's meeting was about getting acquainted and discussing issues students face at their schools.
Overcrowding topped the list of student concerns.
"Classes are really big this year," said Tessa Hunt, a junior at Cibola High School. "In my English class, I didn't have a seat for the first two weeks."
But even as most students mentioned class size, they also complimented their teachers for coping with the challenges.
"The teachers are making it work; they're hanging in there," said Quwali Foster, a junior at Manzano.
Other big issues were attendance and punctuality, with students on the council concerned that their peers are unmotivated and that activities and services sometimes fail to reach the people who most need them.
In the coming year, Brooks will ask the teens to bring those kinds of insights to the school board, legislators and other decision-makers.
"My experience is that school board members will probably listen to you more than they listen to me," he told the group.
Eleni Becton, a junior at Del Norte, said after the first meeting that the adults were engaged. "They seem really fascinated and interested in our opinions," she said.
Brooks said he wants the council to be more than just lip service, with real input from students. He said a previous APS model had too many students to generate meaningful conversations.
"Before, it was superficial, sort of pat the kids on the head," he said. "With this, we really want to get their input."