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Students advise school leaders

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com
Sandi Hoover/Nevada AppealKassie Mohler, a junior from Silver Stage High School, shares her ideas during the workshop portion of the student summit held Saturday at Silver Stage High School.
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Mariah Gramolini has a vision for her school district.

“For every student who attends a Lyon County school to be able to do whatever they want after they graduate,” said the 17-year-old senior at Silver Stage High School.

And the people best equipped to prepare students to meet those goals, said Superintendent Caroline McIntosh, are the students. That’s why the district organized a student summit Saturday where school board members met with students to discuss the direction the district should take to ensure success after graduation.

The suggestions from the summit will be compiled along with responses given from nearly 1,800 students in the district who couldn’t attend the summit but answered an online survey.

“It’s your lives,” McIntosh told them. “We want to make sure that when you leave here, you’re ready to go on and have wonderful lives. That’s your job today, to let us know how we can help you.”

About 130 students from the district’s five high schools – Dayton, Silver Stage, Fernley, Yerington and Smith Valley – attended the summit at Silver Stage High School from

8:45 a.m. to noon. It is part of the district’s overarching theme, “Nothing about us without us.”

Buses ran from each of the high schools to the summit where they met all together for a briefing, then divided up into small groups and met with individual school board members.

In the groups, they discussed their goals in life and what barriers they might have faced in reaching those goals. They then discussed what the schools could do to remove the barriers and identified three priorities to bring back to school trustees.

Several of the students expressed interest in going to college and said their schools lacked the courses to prepare them.

Tony Castaneda, 17, said he needs to take a foreign language to get into college, but Smith Valley High School only offers Spanish, which he learned from his parents.

“There’s no point in me taking a Spanish class,” he said.

Likewise, students at Dayton High School said they took two years of French, but the teacher was eliminated because of budget cuts so they missed out on their third year.

There are similar obstacles when it comes to math.

“They only offer calculus every other year,” said Lindy Cartwright, 16, a sophomore at Silver Stage High School. “If you come into the high school and skip first-year algebra and take geometry instead, you’re going to have to take an online class your senior year.”

McIntosh said the district is already looking at ways to bring college-level courses to the widely spread out district.

She said a $350,000 Congressional appropriation will pay for video equipment to stream into classes from nearby community colleges as well as from one high school to another.

Dayton High School junior Michael Perkins suggested leaders more often turn to students for solutions. He pointed at fundraisers his school has done to raise money for a fellow student and to buy band uniforms.

“If we want it bad enough, we’ll work for it,” he said.

Once priorities were determined, students returned to the gymnasium to discuss them with the other groups. From there, board members took the suggestions to help determine the mission and vision statements for the school district as well as help drive the budget process.

Lyndsey Howell, a senior from Fernley High School, was optimistic about the outcome.

“It shows they’re really trying,” she said. “As of right now, I think they’re really working to improve the school district.”

Trustee Charles Shirley said the student feedback would be an integral part of the board’s planning.

“We take this very, very seriously,” he said. “How can you make decisions about the direction of the school district without talking to the kids in the trenches? That’s what has to feed the process.”

Throughout the day $3,040 worth of prizes, donated by merchants and other community members, was raffled off.

The community also donated enough money to give $500 scholarships to 10 seniors.

McIntosh said she hopes to continue the summit annually.