Directors chat about allowing student rep on school board

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A very brief discussion that sifted out from a myriad of policy reviews, has left a door open to possible student representation on the Fort Madison School board.

At Monday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors, the usual review of school board policies that may need aligning with the Iowa Association of School Boards was underway, when Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater brought up a discussion of IASB policy 202.5.

The optional IASB policy encourages school boards to seek out student opinions regarding the district’s educational programs. The district currently does not have student representation on the board.

District business manager Sandy Elmore said the district used have student representation many years ago, but she said the time commitments of students made attendance difficult.

‘It’s a big time commitment. They have activities… homework. They actually sit at the table and have to report back to their peers,” Elmore said.

Director Carol Ross asked if the board should look into whether there was interest from students.

Slater said if the board looks for interest at the school, directors would have to be on board with moving in that direction.

“I would hate to put this out there and bring it back and say, ‘Hey there was interest’ and then have the board say, “Well…we’d like to wait a year or two. So I think before we garner interest, the board needs to be on the same page. That would be my recommendation,” Slater said.

Board President Tim Wondra said it was difficult enough to get students to the board meetings for the regular student rep reports.

But Director Dianne Hope said she would like to see the board leave the option on the table.

“There’s positives here. Lots of positives. The fall back is that they may not attend all the time because of commitments and different things.,” Hope said.

“I’d like us to think about this. I’m not sure we want to think about it in a meeting like this, but maybe through the SIAC group, there’s students on there and maybe they could provide some input.”

Slater agreed with Elmore that the time commitment is a consideration.

“If it’s done right, it’s a huge time commitment for students,” Slater said.

She said she served in a district that did have student reps brought on and it was a very large time commitment, but she said for the right person it helps their resume and engagement. The student had to apply and a board subcommittee was convened to interview candidates.

“It’s not just time on the students side, it’s time outside the regular board meeting to create an application, interview and provide feedback. This was a very large district with lots of student interest, but it’s an extra time commitment for the board as well,” Slater said.

Director Lois DiPrima said she favored included the policy on the books, but Wondra said if it’s included, the board would be obligated to pursue it.

Slater, at the board’s direction, said she would not bring the policy back for action, but said it could be revisited at any time.

In other action, the board:

• approved trips for the FFA group to Indianapolis and the annual junior high science trip to the Florida Keys.

• got an update on the district Creative Learning Center statistics from instructor Deb Hentzel and Fort Madison High School Principal Greg Smith.

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