Students, board discuss mutual concerns

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/28/99.

The Youth Advisory Council discussed student mediation, performing arts center, and advanced classes with the Paynesville Area School Board at their meeting Friday afternoon.

Three times a year, the board meets in the afternoon in order to hear the issues students are concerned about.

A group of middle school students have started training to be mediators to help solve student problems. Working with the students are Dave Mutschelknaus, school social worker, and Deb Gillman, middle school principal.

High school students on the advisory council talked about some of the good things they have noticed, among them the discussion on the performing arts theater and fitness center.

School board chairman Pat Flanders talked to the students about the importance of student involvement in selling the project to the community.

The students asked if the high school library couldn't be updated as it is probably the darkest room in the building. Laura Mages suggested that when they redo the library, design it for Internet usage. "Instead of purchasing more books for the library, the district should spend more funds on Internet services. Many of the students are more confident using the Internet and it is easier to find information," she added.

Other students suggested turning the library into another computer lab. Presently, the library has six computer stations and they are always occupied.

Superintendent Howard Caldwell informed the students that presently the district's largest enrollment is at the high school level. "A lot of kids are utilizing the computer lab. However, I don't think anything will be done with the library until a new media person is hired. The present media person, Lindsay Hull is retiring, and before anything is done, his replacement should be given the opportunity to provide input," Caldwell said.

John Janotta, high school principal, urged the students to write to their legislators. "The Internet provides students access to all the legislators. They need to hear firsthand from students about the lack of funds for technology."

Mages and Liz Hubert talked about the need for advance placement courses at the high school.

Caldwell told the students there is the possibility of taking courses over the Internet; however, not all courses are affiliated with a university or college.

School trips
At a previous meeting, the board discussed student trips that occur during school days.

Janotta presented the board with a list of 24 field trips that have removed or will remove students from school one- half day or more.

Trips range from regional BPA conferences to college fairs, the German trip, Guthrie trip, physics field trip, and jazz clinic/contest.

Janotta informed the board that trips aren't the only activity which remove students from school. During the deer hunting season, a couple hundred students were missing. They are excused if they hunt with a parent or grandparent. Flanders expressed a concern about moving the German trip to the summer as only about half of the students would be able to go.

"I feel the trip is a valuable experience. If we shortened the trip, then they would lose their home stays and that is a experience they can't repeat," Flanders added.

Flanders asked if a compromise couldn't be made. "Try a summer trip,"Flanders suggested. "If the numbers are way down, return the trip to the spring again." Board member Deb Glenz said she was against a summer trip as it would put more financial pressure on parents.

Janotta informed the board that disregarding trips, attendance within the district is getting poorer.

"Students are skipping school more often," Janotta said. "We are seeing subtle changes academically. Something needs to be done," he added. "Why are more and more parents taking vacations during the school year, many parents seem to support their children missing school."

Janotta explained everything slows down for teachers when they have to repeat classroom work for students doing makeup work.

"We need to get kids to school to educate them," he stressed. Janotta said the average attendance this quarter was 93.6 percent of the student body.

In other business:
•The board approved a 175 day school calendar with three snow days built into the calendar for the 1999-2000 school year. School would start on Sept. 1 and end on June 2. Graduation is scheduled for June 4, 2000.

•The board approved issuing diplomas to the members of the Class of 1999.

•The board approved a two-year agreement with the Paynesville-New London-Spicer Hockey Association to continue providing opportunities for students to play hockey in the Minnesota State High School League program.

•The board approved a two-year continuation of the hockey cooperative agreement with Rocori, Albany, St. John's Preps, and New London-Spicer School districts (River Lakes Stars).

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