Monday, October 10, 2005

Communicating The El Paso Way

In El Paso, Texas, they've developed what seems to be a great way of opening lines of communication between high school students and the district's governing board of trustees:
A group of Ysleta Independent School District students are helping to shape a positive relationship between school district trustees, administrators and other students.

The Student Advisory Council is made up of two representatives from each of the district's high schools and middle schools. Members confer not only with each other at their schools' student council meetings but also with district trustees at board meetings.

Hector Montenegro, the district superintendent, said the council helps students develop leadership skills and sets goals and priorities for the year.

"They identify real issues in the schools and problems that have to be addressed," Montenegro said.

The council meets about once a month and participates in an annual retreat, where members have team-building activities elect officers. They also learn common courtesy and debate skills.

Montenegro said the students debate, discuss and advise him on topics they feel should be policy.

Many students who participate in the advisory council say they learn valuable lessons that they will be able to apply after they graduate from high school.

Angeline Garcia, 17, a senior at Riverside High School, said that by participating in the council, she has learned "to be a better leader and to be more outspoken."

Some members of the council also hope to eventually pursue careers in politics.

"You learn things you get to us in politics, like getting to know people, taking their ideas and running with them," said Nick Cooper, 13, an eighth-grader at Eastwood Middle.

Besides learning important leadership skills by participating in the advisory council, students learn how to work with leaders.

"It has taught me how to lead and be led, which helps when I'm not taking charge," said Shawn Escarciga, 17, a senior at Hanks High School, where he is also the student council administrative assistant.
I think that this can be a pretty good idea, as long as the effort remains focused on improving the schools' overall learning environment and not becoming bogged-down in more trivial matters such as the site of next year's senior prom. I am also concerned that this process apparently doesn't include input from classroom teachers, thus eliminating (and possibly alienating) one of the largest group of stake-holders in the education community from what could otherwise be productive dialogue.
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