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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 3, 2005

Students discuss what schools need

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Education Writer


The students will ask appropriate policymakers to:

  • Make kindergarten mandatory.

  • Give full voting rights to the Board of Education student member.

  • Designate money to relieve the public schools' backlog of school maintenance and repairs.

  • Reconsider the weighted student formula and how each school will be given its money.

  • Implement a college admissions and financial aid counseling program for graduating high school students.

  • Increase emphasis on mathematics, science and social studies to address expectations of the Hawai'i State Assessment and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

  • Allocate resources to educate Hawai'i's youth on drug and illicit substance abuse and treatment for adolescent drug and substance abusers.

  • Employ a peer counseling program to create unity and safety in Hawai'i's public high schools

  • Replace external suspension with rehabilitative disciplinary methods for all public schools.

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    Student leaders from across the state spent three days this week tackling such issues as a controversial school funding formula, pay raises for public school teachers and having student voting rights on the Board of Education.

    They will spend the next legislative session trying to push through their agenda.

    As part of the annual Hawai'i Secondary Student Conference, about 150 students from public and private schools debated a variety of issues at the Capitol, then moved to the University of Hawai'i to learn about lobbying, bill-tracking and civic responsibility.

    Of the 71 ideas proposed, the students reached consensus on nine.

    Some resolutions from previous conferences have carried weight, such as getting a student to sit on the Board of Education. Since then, the students have been pushing to give the student member voting rights.

    Student BOE member Darren Ibara said one of the good things about the conference is that students are the ones who generate the ideas. "They themselves know what the schools need, what they need. It's their concerns and what they want to do, so that's a big part of it," he said. "The students are always well-informed and mature about it."

    Conference chairwoman Jessica Au, a junior at Kaiser High School, said the delegates put a lot of work into developing their resolutions. "They conduct surveys. They get the information. They do personal interviews," she said.

    Now the students will go back and see which of their initiatives are already laws or being acted on, and which they need to bring before the Legislature, the Board of Education and the individual school community councils, Au said.

    Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.