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Alternative school forms advisory council

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

Juneau's alternative high school has formed an advisory site council for the first time in its 10-year history.

The 13-member site council for 95-student Yaakoosge Daakahidi will be a team that advocates for students and the school, Principal Laury Scandling said. The district's other public schools all have site councils.

"Although we're small, it seemed reasonable to have an established way for our constituents to talk to one another," she said.

The site council provides students with the opportunity to be leaders, said parent and site council member Terry Baines.

"You can have all the desire in the world. If you don't know where to help out, it won't do any good," he said.

The group includes Scandling, two teachers, two students, five family members, two community members and one support staffer. The council has met two times since the Juneau School Board approved it Dec. 7. Three positions are still vacant.

By district policy and rules, site councils advise principals on new hires and how to use the school budget. The groups also can assess a school's needs and set goals. They can seek waivers from the district regarding curriculum or policy, and from the district and unions over provisions of employee contracts.

Site councils let students and parents see the complexities of running a school and a district within the limits of budgets and state and federal laws.

"It's easy to have a great idea," Scandling said. "It's - what do they say? - the devil's in the details."

"It definitely opened my mind," said Yaakoos student Tatianna Sinnhuber, who is on the council. "It made me realize there is so much about how a high school is run."

But site councils also can give school members the feeling that things can change.

At Monday's meeting, site council members quickly came up with a list of about 10 rental spaces that the school could look into. One of the priorities (see the article this page) is to find larger quarters.

"I think you multiply your ability to be effective," Scandling said of the council.

Sinnhuber volunteered for the site council because she wanted to benefit the school, which she described as a community.

"It's like a little family - I guess a big family," she said.

Sinnhuber, a junior in her first year at Yaakoos, said she skipped school and failed classes at JDHS. But she gets more personal attention at Yaakoos, she said. She wants other students to have that option.

Site council member Lucinda Wright, a senior who also serves on the JDHS student council and the Mayor's Task Force on Youth, said she dove into discussions at Monday's site council meeting.

"You have a lot of input you want to say. Just to put it out there helps," Wright said.

The council "helps bring a lot of different views," she said. The adults thought of some things that wouldn't cross her mind, she said.

Baines, a parent, served for part of last year on the JDHS site council. He joined the Yaakoos council because he wants to generate more parental involvement, especially by Natives.

"That's always a challenge when parents, especially both parents, work," said Baines, who is Native. "Sometimes parents don't know what they can do to help except get the kids dressed and out the door."

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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