The room where it happens

Student leaders give Superintendent input on district issues

photo credit: Heath Hadley
Lame or game \ Superintendent Dr. Vinson writes student feedback on what strategies and social media platforms are “lame” or what the district wants to know to improve communication and relationships over social media. “I think one of the main takeaways I got from the council was that our district is willing to listen to its students,” Wylie High senior Alina Nguyen, HOSA and NHS president said. “They were extremely receptive to student input, and to be one of the few selected to represent Wylie High School was an extraordinary opportunity.”

writer: Heath Hadley, Editor in Chief

From the President’s Cabinet to the Round Table of King Arthur, every good organization needs some sort of council to influence leaders’ decisions to be the best they can be at what they do. On Wednesday, Sept. 15, students were bussed out of school after fourth period to the Education Service Center, where they were treated with Chick-fil-a and met with district leaders and Wylie High students. They were gathered for more than just food, but also to discuss current district issues and ways to improve.

“What you do here helps influence the decisions we make,” superintendent Dr. David Vinson said.

While the Council has occurred for the last few years, this is the first time club leadership and representation qualified council membership and not teachers nominating student leaders.

“The goal of the council is to always hear from students and so we can make more informed decisions at our offices,” Director of the Wylie Way and Counseling Services Amanda Martin said. “The difference would be that each member of this year’s council is involved in a club or leadership position on campus.”

First, the superintendents introduced themselves and their roles, then the principals of both schools, and then each student introduced themselves and what organizations they were representing.

“I think as students it’s very easy to get detached from those who are higher up on the ladder employment wise, as we do not see them on a regular basis,” Wylie East senior Namuuka Mweene, HOSA and Interact Club Officer said. “However, seeing the council in action and the interest from all of the staff members present reassured me that these teachers are always trying to improve the Wylie community.”

I think as students it’s very easy to get detached from those who are higher up on the ladder employment wise, as we do not see them on a regular basis. However, seeing the council in action and the interest from all of the staff members present reassured me that these teachers are always trying to improve the Wylie community.”

— Namuuka Mweene, HOSA and Interact Club officer said

The student advisory council speaks for over 18,200 students.

“We are always looking to improve day-to-day operations and find better ways to conduct business,” Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Scott Roderick said, “We strive to be more efficient and find cost savings without adversely affecting student learning. We are responsible for maintaining and cleaning the school buildings, providing student meals, purchasing items, paying invoices, providing insurance for our buildings, paying our employees, and making sure all those transactions are correctly recorded in our general ledger.”

The goals of the council were to get to know council members, establish the purpose of the council, and collect feedback about important district issues.

“That day was spent on how to better reach your peers, better ways to get them the information, better ways to help them get connected, better ways to meet y’all where you’re at,” Martin said. “We might have on the surface been talking about good fonts, using the right social media platform, and catchy videos, but what that really could mean is one more student feels like they belong because they know what’s going on. One more student feels like they belong because they helped create that content. One more student feels like they belong because they needed some help to reach a larger audience and you made it happen. Y’all are so important. I hope you always know that.”

The main issue discussed was communication via social media and how administrators can utilize it better to communicate with students.

“My biggest takeaway was that our high schools have very engaged student leaders who are ready and willing to share feedback and discuss what matters to them most,” Cunningham said. “Wylie ISD is truly a destination district. Great academics, great programs and an even better community. Students, staff, families and the community care deeply about the district and its success, and it is incredible to see the Wylie Way in action day in and day out. Amazing work is taking place in our classrooms and in our community every day, and we need to keep telling those stories.”

At her table, Principal Tiffany Doolan discussed social media and getting the word out with council members, and how she tries to put the daily announcements into her weekly newsletter so more people can get the information.

“We will never have one hundred percent of everyone engaged,” Principal Doolan said, “but the goal is to grow followers and engagement. So I sent out the newsletters.”

Students talked about the benefits of shorter posts focused on campus-specific information, and not sending information about Wylie High to Wylie East students.

“I think one of the main takeaways I got from the council was that our district is willing to listen to its students,” Wylie High senior Alina Nguyen, HOSA and NHS president said. “They were extremely receptive to student input, and to be one of the few selected to represent Wylie High School was an extraordinary opportunity.”

Student leaders also suggested adding more student life to posts, where clubs, organizations, and others can contribute and maybe compete between schools.

“So use influence to get information out and spread the word,” Dr. Vision said.

Students also talked about influence gaps when it comes to other students and adults.

“The same gaps are on the same sites,” senior Luis Lopez said. “ So the same people who don’t hear the announcements will not see the more recent news. The wider the range, the better.”
Some leaders suggested using the Remind app for campus-wide notifications, as many students would already have the app for other extracurricular activities.

They also suggested making notifications more comedic and engaging for students, using fewer live feeds, using Instagram reels for each campus as informal announcements, and graphics to condense information and make it easily digestible.

“Find a balance and keep posting so people will want to keep up with it,” senior Ashtyn Arp said.

Near the end of the meeting, council members participated in a poll of what issues they thought were the most important for students, like time management, mental health, stress, finding help, and drama.

“More than anything I want your voice,” Vinson said. “I got here when you were in the first grade, so I care about you and want the best for you. My goal in life is that when you graduate, you have a plan and a purpose.”

He has been here 11 years. In those 11 years, graduation rates rose from 50 percent to 81 percent, the diversity gap was almost entirely erased, and there are 4000-5000 more kids on each campus.

“Whatever you do and however you live your life, you have value and importance,” Vinson said. “I do not want you not to do something because you are afraid.”

My main takeaway was the feeling of inclusion between both schools. There wasn’t any hostility between us and High. The improvement I’d make on the district is the social media presence and celebrations among all programs, not just the big ones. I feel like that’ll help inclusion.”

— Marcus Harbert, Leo Club officer and Football Captain

Both students and staff left the council with a feeling of satisfaction.

“Thank you for coming in with an open mind,” Doolan said. “I learned so much.”

If social media changes and additions happen, they will only occur from junior high and up.

“My main takeaway was the feeling of inclusion between both schools. There wasn’t any hostility between us and High,” Wylie East senior Marcus Harbert, Leo Club Officer, and Football Captain said. “The improvement I’d make on the district is the social media presence and celebrations among all programs, not just the big ones. I feel like that’ll help inclusion.”

The meetings will be quarterly, with the next one in December.

“One way I would improve the district, especially for high schoolers, is by transitioning school back to normalcy, the way it was before COVID-19,” Nguyen said. “I think remote classes depersonalized classroom interactions with students and teachers, and I could see that becoming a problem when students begin asking their teachers for letters of recommendation. I could see that there aren’t quite as many meaningful connections between students and teachers, and that could be something that teachers and faculty could pay attention to going forward.”

If you want to be a part of your school and district community and make meaningful connections while staying informed on upcoming events, go to @wehsraidernationprincipal or @davidlvinson on Facebook.

“These student leaders shared thoughtful ideas and provided district leadership with valuable insight,” Executive Director of Communications April Cunningham said. “We left that first meeting already eager for the next meeting due largely to all the great conversation and suggestions shared. The students who are part of the Superintendent Student Advisory Council seem to have a great pulse of what’s happening on campus. That alone is why I believe we will see great success with this year’s council.”