City Hall was more crowded than usual on June 4 at the Red Wing School Board meeting, with current and former students utilizing the public comment to voice their concerns over the possible canceling of the high school's advisory class.
Emotions were high as they said the student body had not been thoroughly addressed before the release of the proposed disciplinary plan to help address the school climate issues.
At the May 21 Red Wing School Board meeting, Principal Todd Herber and teacher Scott Bender presented the disciplinary plan outline, which was compiled by administration and faculty. The plan recommends the cancellation of advisory class and these options as well:
• Eliminate the advisory period and add about 10 minutes to each instructional period.
• Reduce how many times advisory classes meet each month.
• Change timing of advisory period, which starts at approximately 9:25 a.m. daily.
• Require students to stay in advisory period or find alternative places for them.
An organized effort
Calli Hughes, a 2017 graduate, said that when she found out about the possible cancellation of the advisory hour, she went to voice her thoughts to School Board Chair Arlen Diercks at the National Honor Society banquet on May 30.
Hughes was a speaker at the banquet. Diercks referred her to Superintendent Karsten Anderson, who then referred Hughes to Herber.
Hughes said she met with Herber and School Board Vice-chair Heidi Jones to understand why the decisions were being made.
The meetings were beneficial, Hughes said, saying Herber offered "great insight" into the group's thought process. Jones also offered her perspective on the matter, while also telling Hughes the best way to address the board, if she chose to do so.
On June 3, Hughes, along with a number of concerned students, met at a coffeeshop to create an organized collection of thoughts to bring before the board.
Hughes said she believes in the benefits the advisory class offers. As a senior, Hughes helped create the Activities and Clubs ceremony to honor students who stood out in their respective groups.
Hughes, along with many others who spoke, were or are highly involved in the school's clubs, athletics and activities. Hughes said without that advisory hour, she believes students, mostly underclassmen, will have a hard time being involved if meeting times are relegated to before or after school.
An effective approach
Hughes led off the public comment, giving a broad overview of what the next nine former or current students, would be discussing.
Eva Engberg, who will be a junior this fall, said she used advisory to meet with math teachers to make up for missed exams and homework. This helped her complete and pass the course this past semester.
Engberg said the class "allows for more extensive work to be done," and if students are forced to find times in the morning or after school, students could struggle.
"For a large portion of the school population, the bus is the only method of transport to and from the school available to them," Engberg said. "And their buses can come as late as minutes before class starts and will all leave promptly after the day ends. ... If this is enacted, equal opportunities for students to gain necessary assistance will not be available. Students need to watch siblings or work after school, may see a drop in grades and academic proficiency if they don't get the time they need."
Aridasee Tisland shared similar concerns. Tisland, a graduate of the high school, said during her time in school, she participated regularly in athletics and other extracurricular programs.
"I was so grateful for advisory, because it gave me a chance, as it does for so many of the students of Red Wing High, to continue educating ourselves and having the means, peers, adults, and times to also contribute to sports and arts that are true to our upbringing as well," Tisland said.
Cayanne Korder got emotional, fighting to hold back tears. She said that without having the advisory period, she wouldn't have had an adult presence — in this case her advisory teacher Amy Nelson — in her life to help with her schooling.
"She was the only adult in my life who asked about my grades, who celebrated me when I joined a new club, and I didn't have that at home," Korder said. "That is why we need advisory."
Yesenia Sanchez, who will graduate in 2019, said she's able to help two to four students a day with their studies, saying that she's "sad this time for students to get help will be gone. Time to connect with adults in the building and time to meet in clubs is being taken away."
Sanchez acknowledged the advisory could be taken advantage of by students who want to skip class or be disruptful. However, Sanchez said that maybe the advisory class could be modified to help with the school climate issues.
"Maybe we could create a different environment for advisory," Sanchez said. "Maybe certain teachers' rooms could be for working on assignments. Others could be for reading. Others could be for hanging out with friends."
At the end of the 10 students' public comment time, Superintendent Karsten Anderson commended their organized and poised approach. He recommended the group pass along the information to Herber.
School Board Chair Arlen Diercks thanked them for bringing the matter to the board's further attention.
Hughes submitted a number of letters from other current and former students.