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Coupeville students want to be heard

Scott Harbour graduated from Coupeville High School this year, but he spent his last day staying after school. He had organized a meeting between a group of students he described as “not really connected to the school,” and Coupeville Superintendent Bill Myhr.

“I want to make sure Mr. Myhr hears more voices,” Harbour said. “The goal is for all students to succeed, to go to college if they want to.”

The meeting tied in with Coupeville School District’s ongoing efforts to “reinvent” the school, based on a model from the Gates Grant for small schools. The Gates Grant team has spent the last year studying other schools that have received Gates grants, and is now ready to start phase one of the reconstruction.

The 10 students who joined the discussion group were not the school’s star athletes, student body officers or prom royalty. They were kids who felt they were ignored by students and staff, and they wanted that to change.

“Schools need to hear different voices,” Eddie Fasolo said. “Those who aren’t involved get lost in this district.”

Myhr said this week that a big part of the Gates grant was to create a student voice that includes all students.

A major component of the restructuring, which will be in place by fall quarter, is to have a Principal’s Council, separate from the ASB, which will meet regularly with middle/high school Principal Phyllis Textor to discuss school “culture and climate,” Myhr said. Principal Textor was unavailable for comment this week.

In an effort to keep students from feeling ignored, and falling through the cracks, every student will be part of an advocacy group of 16 to 18 students. These students will meet regularly with a teacher or other school faculty who will track their progress for the entire four years.

“Studies show this dramatically increases student voice,” Myhr said.

Students will touch base with their advisors every day for 10 minutes in their group, plus meeting for a one hour session once a week. To facilitate this meeting time, high school students will have their lunch period expanded to one hour. Middle school students will have a half hour lunch, plus a half hour study period.

“We want each student to feel they have an adult they can go to to feel safe and secure,” Myhr said. “Research shows this supports success in school.”

Each of these small groups will choose one student to serve on an advocacy council, which will have 35 to 40 students.

There will also be a ninth grade academy, in which ninth grade students will have an hour lunch to work on acquiring skills and strategies to help make a successful transition to tenth grade.

Myhr said the goal is to foster an environment that is not group against group, but rather enhances all groups.

That philosophy was a hard sell for this after-school crowd.

Students want more attention

“I think 75 to 80 percent of the student body feels frustrated and that they’re not getting the help they need,” Hannah Rodriques said.

She and Lindsey Hubbard, also at the meeting, are going to attend Running Start classes full time next fall, for what Myhr calls “the wrong reasons.”

“I’ve given up,” Hubbard said. “I don’t think these people listen. I hear a lot of promises, but then it doesn’t work out.”

Rodrigues was equally candid.

“I’m not challenged enough here,” she said. “Going to Coupeville High School is a waste of my time. I come for six hours and I sit.”

And these are the students who get good grades, despite their feelings of disenfranchisement. They worry about those who feel ignored and can’t keep up academically either.

“I’m concerned about losing those kids we shouldn’t be losing,” Rodrigues said.

Myhr said those sentiments reinforce the need for the Gates grant restructuring.

“I think it’s going to meet the needs of the 20 to 40 percent who feel they don’t fit into the school culture,” he said.

While dropout rates are not tracked specifically, Myhr said Coupeville had 3.6 percent fewer seniors at graduation than they had at the beginning of fall quarter.

“We’re trying to create a culture to catch kids before they fall through the cracks,” he said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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