Public weighs in on plans for high schools

Students, graduates offer their support, criticism at meeting

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The public's first chance to comment on the final transition plan for opening a second high school and reforming high school education in Juneau brought students and parents to the microphone.

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The first speakers, five students or recent graduates, told the Juneau School Board they didn't like the proposal to close campus and open Thunder Mountain High School without junior varsity sports. One commented that students were not listened to during the planning process.

In general, academies and small learning communities got the thumbs up.

In all, 24 people signed up to speak to the School Board. Several left after waiting two hours for the chance to speak.

Senior Gus Brown warned the School Board against accepting the plan to open TMHS without membership in Alaska Schools Activities Association. To do so might lead to "brain drain," he said.

Brown explained his fear that academically advanced students would choose Juneau-Douglas High School and leave an inequity at TMHS. Advanced students are more interested in activities because of the chance to travel and see other schools, he said.

Criticizing the proposal that TMHS students play sports at JDHS, Brown said, "What's the point? Just go to JDHS."

William Muldoon, a recent graduate, said he supported small learning communities and academies because not all students do well in the larger environment of JDHS.

Drake Skaggs explained to the School Board that his fellow students, from all grades, had not been properly heard during the planning process for TMHS and Next Generation.

"We're the consumer and our opinions matter," he said.

Skaggs found meetings billed as discussions a disappointment. He said he sat down and filled out a work sheet. The high school senior called the discussions "farcical" and said they amounted to a "lack of respect."

"Faculty should actually listen to students instead of pretending," he said.

JDHS senior Peter Nave told the School Board that he disagrees with the proposal to close campus and said that requiring students to stay on campus will hurt student development.

"As you know, lunch is a reprieve from the place you work, it reduces stress. It's the same for students," he said.

"I disagree with the plan to close campus," Nave said.

Recent JDHS graduate Naomi Sadighi followed with Nave's lead and said, "The goal should be to foster independence." A closed campus and lack of ASAA sports goes against teaching independence, she said.

Sadighi said her ability to study abroad in a foreign culture was developed by participating in traveling activities at JDHS. She encouraged the School Board to open TMHS with ASAA membership.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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