School board seeking youth reps to act as link to students

Published 7:52 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Austin Public School board is calling for some students to step up and represent.

Board members hope to have two student representatives serving as a link between Austin High School students and the board by this fall.

“We all want to provide opportunities for the students,” board member Angie Goetz said at the board’s Monday night meeting. Goetz created the student representative positions with fellow board member Kathy Green after attending a seminar at a state school board convention in January which highlighted student participation in school governance.

Two high school students, a junior and senior, will represent student voices at board meetings during the 2012-2013 year, which board members hope will add to the district’s discussions. The board considered the program’s merits during its January study session.

Student representatives will be chosen based on their qualities, which includes being responsible, having leadership potential, being well-respected by their peers, showing confidence, and demonstrating good communication. In addition, students must be willing to complete a two-year term over their junior and senior year, attend monthly school board meetings except in summer months, and become familiar with the board’s meeting agenda each month.

Student representatives will also share board activity with other students, though school staff are still figuring out how that will occur.

The position isn’t just for the top students, as the board wants well-rounded students to apply.

“We want a student who is well-respected by their peers,” Goetz said.

Applications will be available before spring break and are due by Monday, April 16. Students who apply may be interviewed the following week and the board hopes to announce student representatives at its May meeting.

In other news, the board:

—Learned the district saved more than $645,000 over the past six years while meeting and exceeding energy efficiency goals. Austin started an energy efficiency program six years ago with the hope of reducing energy costs by 10 percent. The district met those goals in some areas, according to Energy Efficiency Coordinator Carmel Taylor.

“District-wide … we’re comparing very, very well with other schools,” she told the board.

Only Woodson Kindergarten Center struggled to cut energy costs as district officials put off upgrades to the school. Now that Woodson is going through an expansion and heating/venting upgrade, Taylor expects the school’s energy output to drop.

—Readjusted its 2011-2012 budget. The annual process accounts for funding shifts and expenses, according to Finance and Operations Director Mark Stotts. The district’s general fund shrank by $1.1 million, as the district hopes to spend down a $7.4 million general fund to about $4 million to keep in line with district policy, which says Austin must have a general fund balance of about a month’s worth of expenses, or about $4 million.

“That was planned,” Stotts said. The spent money helps maintain current staffing levels, as the district would otherwise have had to cut jobs due to pay shifts in state aid and inflation this year, according to Stotts.

—Heard an update on design plans for a new fifth- and sixth-grade school at Ellis. Stotts said plans still aren’t finalized, as they must go through one more focus group meeting before district officials are satisfied. As things stand, the new school would be a two-story building, with the second story mainly on the south side of the building. The main entrance could be facing east, though students will be dropped off via bus near the school’s northern entrance. A main corridor will stretch east-west, with lockers located near classroom groupings.

Stotts also outlined potential classroom designs, which included removable walls which could join classrooms together or allow students to go into a larger learning space. Some classes may even have glass walls, according to design mock-ups Stotts showed the board. Stotts stressed that nothing has been decided and the mock-ups were ideas district officials and architects could use in finalizing designs.

—Read new policies on Health and Safety Policy, naming schools and buildings, and energy usage. All are new policies, though only the health and safety policy is legally mandated. The board must read each policy once more before adopting them.