Who knows better what students want than students themselves? With this in mind, school district officials in Brock and Millsap created superintendent student advisory councils this school year. They are the latest in Parker County to do so, joining Weatherford and Peaster.
"Our goal is to find outstanding student leaders from the junior high and high school campuses who will really spend some time and effort at our meetings to bring ideas, then share and debate them, in an effort to improve our schools and district as a whole," said Brock Superintendent Scott Drillette.
Drillette said he got the idea from Brock Elementary Principal Erin Griffith, who showed him a Facebook post about the superintendent in Decatur doing the same thing. Drillete also found out that a good friend has started a similar program in Royse City.
He took what he learned and set up a council with 12 students, two from each grade 7-12. The No. 1 qualification to be on the council is a student’s day-to-day leadership of his or her peers.
"We weren’t necessarily looking for the students who had the highest GPAs or were the most advanced academically, although we have several of those on our council. But we were looking for students who would be vocal leaders willing to share ideas and fight for what they think is right," he said.
Millsap's council consists of presidents and vice presidents from the school's various extracurricular groups.
"We started with high school students this year and I hope to expand it to the other two campuses next year. Their input has been invaluable," Millsap Superintendent Deann Lee said.
“One of the best parts of Millsap is the accessibility to being involved and the ability to make an impact, even talking to the superintendent or school board,” said Angie Casarez, a senior who serves on Millsap's council.
“It’s nice that we get to be involved in the decisions about our own education,” added Katie Tomerlin, also a senior.
Brock eighth-grader and council member Morgan Fairman said she sees one role of the council as "being able to give a voice at those times when students do not feel they have a voice."
Brock seventh-grade council member Addi Roberts says the program provides insight for teachers and serves as a voice for peers. "Sometimes teachers don’t always see what the students like and don't like, and this helps us to give them more information," she said.
Roberts would like to see school supply vending machines put in place, "because we always needs pencils and pens."
Peaster Superintendent Matt Adams said the program in his district has been in place since 2016. To be a member, a student must be a senior in good standing.
"I thought it was a great way to get some student input," he said. "We didn't really use a specific model. We just created a program that we felt best suited our needs."
Adams said one of the best things to come out of the program is a student-mentor relationship. Council members meet with students in lower grade levels to share their experiences and prepare them for higher grades.
"It is some of the same information that we share with the students as teachers and administrators, but I think it means more coming from a fellow student," Adams said.
Weatherford Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks has been working with a student advisory council for three years. In addition to giving feedback to the district, they conduct a service project each year. The first year they did a teddy bear drive for Cook Children’s Medical Center in honor of a WHS student. "Over 200 teddy bears were donated," said district spokeswoman Charlotte LaGrone. Last year, they raised funds to bring Jonathan Hutcherson from "The Voice" to perform and speak to students who are hearing impaired.
"They’re in the process of developing their service project for this school year and planning a leadership activity and message for fifth-grade students," LaGrone said.
Back at Brock, Drillette says he enjoys "the meetings and the dialogue because we really have no idea what topics the students will bring to share, so it makes for lively discussion during the meetings.
"It’s refreshing to see their passion because they want their school to be great as well. It’s not just teachers, administrators and parents that want great schools, but students do as well.
"We are still in the early stages of the council, so I am excited where it will go long-term. I hope the council is here for years to come because I think it will make a major positive impact on the future success of our district."