REGINA — Bronwyn Heerspink said she was quite pleased at the reception she and two of her Miller High School classmates received when they attended their first meeting of the Regina Catholic School Division’s Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 5.
“I was a little bit worried. It’s kind of daunting when you first go in but it’s very open, very welcoming, and I felt quite comfortable.”
Heerspink is one of several high school students, elected by their peers to become student board members for the Regina Catholic School Division. She initially thought that, as student trustees, they would be just “poster children to sit there with a smile on their faces,” but she came to realize that was not the case: “They really do care about our opinion and our voices, and that’s very comforting.”
The idea for this venture originated with the division’s director of education, Domenic Scuglia, who joined the division last year from Ontario, where student board members are mandatory. Trustees welcomed the idea and instructed senior administration to proceed and report to the trustees on how it could be organized. Scuglia asked superintendent of education services Kelly Ehman to take on the job.
Working with students from the division’s five high schools, Ehman worked with the student representative councils, as they are already interested in governance. “We didn’t set any parameters. We just asked them to set their own and to select a junior from Grade nine or 10 and a senior from Grade 11 or 12. Some schools held a mini-election, while others used an application and appointment method.
Sixteen were eventually named, and they organized themselves into a group called STRIVE (Student Trustee Representative Initiative for Voice and Engagement). STRIVE is their general council and they are now working on a constitution, statement of beliefs, and a mission statement, said Ehman. The first few meetings were ice-breakers, but they also looked at the school division’s governance policies and heard presentations from trustees Vicky Bonnell and Richard Dittrick.
The Feb. 5 board meeting saw the first three of the student trustees participate in the regular meeting. Heerspink was accompanied by Jensyn Semchuk and Ryan Farris. They participated fully in the meeting, asking questions of Ehman, who updated the board on how the division was meeting and exceeding the division’s Academic SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Bound) and the Ministry of Education’s ESSP program (Education Sector Strategic Plans).
At the end of the meeting Heerspink, Semchuk, and Farris each reported on activities at their school and some of the students’ concerns, one of which was that councillors don’t seem to have a full slate of post-secondary options with which to advise students.
They also attended and were introduced at the annual electors meeting, which immediately followed the board meeting.