Future of Student Council uncertain

Anne Rogers, Sports Editor

The future of Student Council is uncertain due to the lack of an adviser for the 2014-2015 school year. Former adviser Chris Beguhn resigned in January due to a disagreement involving administration and a former student class officer. Members of the Student Council Executive Board  removed the officer and Beguhn upheld the decision. Principal Brent Riessen allowed the student to stay on the council, which caused Beguhn to resign because it violated the current Student Council policy. Members of administration, including Riessen, associate principals Jerry Stratton and Randy Klein and athletic director Gary Ross have been serving as the Student Council adviser since then. Under school policy, however, administration is not allowed to serve as a full-time adviser for extracurricular activities, including Student Council.

Riessen has been searching for a teacher who would be interested in serving next year’s adviser position. “We’ve reached out to specific teachers, we’ve sent emails to our current staff, we’ve also been interviewing new teachers coming into the building next year,” Riessen said.

There will be about three or four new teachers hired for the high school next year Superintendent Clay Guthmiller said. “We got the teacher leadership grant and other means of moving staff around so there will be additional staff added,” he said.

Junior Nick Lee sees the good and bad of having a new teacher as an adviser. “The good is they wouldn’t have any outside bias towards anyone or anything here,” Lee said. “But it is also kind of bad because they wouldn’t know how to run things here at Johnston, and I feel like a lot of us juniors and sophomores would have to teach them.”

Although there is doubt about the future of Student Council, Riessen is optimistic about finding an adviser and moving on with Student Council in place for next year. “It’s our desire to find an adviser for Student Council,” he said. “We’ve said all along there are three options. One, appoint somebody; another is to not have one; and then the other option is to have someone volunteer and apply for the position. The third one is the one we’re hoping for anyway.”

The uncertainty for next year has caused some students to drop out of the executive board election. Junior Marcus Miller, who was going to run for student body president, decided to just run for senior class officer. “Being the president is a huge responsibility, regardless of the situation,” Miller said. “But in this instance, I think a lot of it has to do with frustration of what has happened. Just the knowledge, or the lack of knowledge, of what is going to happened next year. No one wants to deal with that.”

Because of a lack of candidates, executive board elections have been postponed until next year. The Student Council election committee decided to move forward with the class elections on Infinite Campus April 30. “Next year, the adviser will facilitate the executive board elections,” senior and head of the elections committee Kate Fjelstad said. “We’re going to carry on like there will be a Student Council next year, just hoping that it’s the case.”

The results of the elections were sent out to the future sophomore members of Student Council on April 25, and the future juniors and senior members of Student Council were sent out their results on May 2. The sophomore class president and vice president will be Trent Wignall and Hannah Lee, respectively. The officers will be Sophie Catus, Annie Krone and Peyton Swift. For the junior class, the president will be Michael Tan, and the vice president will be Maddy Bradley. The junior class officers will be Carly Campbell, Meredith Campidilli and Anna Toot. Ellie Marckmann and Marcus Miller will be the senior class president and vice president respectively. Senior class officers include Logan Beguhn, Nick Lee, Luke Davis and EmmaGrace Walter.

Senior class president Ellie Marckmann will run the meetings next year if there is no president following the Student Council Constitution elections. “Being student body president is a major responsibility,” she said. “Having an executive board to support you is very important. So I think it would be very difficult to be the president without other people there to support. Next year will also be a challenge because of the transition of advisors. Right now, there are many unknowns for next year, which makes it hard for anyone to step up to the plate for Student Body President.”

With the future of Student Council in jeopardy, Fjelstad is disappointed with how things are working out. “It’s more just disappointing because Student Council has meant so much to me, and knowing that other people don’t get to have that, that’s the most upsetting part,” Fjelstad said. “Because the sophomores this year, I don’t really think they got to know how awesome Student Council is. And the freshmen that will be sophomores next year, they just voted in their election. They aren’t ever going to know how much fun it is.”

Without a Student Council next year, the rest student body would feel the effects. The biggest thing that students are worried about is the fact that there would not be Homecoming. “All of the things that Student Council does revolves around that because the homecoming dance pays for everything the rest of the year,” Fjelstad said. “So all of the stuff we hand out at football games and basketball games, the pancake breakfast, I mean just everything Student Council sponsors, the money from homecoming funds that. Even if they find an adviser halfway through the year next year, if there’s no homecoming, there’s not going to be that many activities.”

There also might not be a Big Give. “The Big Give raised over $5,000 this year for JDRF, and that’s something we were really proud of,” Lee said. “We wouldn’t have blood drives, Spring Fling Week, Senior Challenge, Intramurals. Unless other students step up and run those things they won’t exist.”

Fjelstad hopes that there will be a Student Council next year, and she hopes Beguhn will be there to help out. “If someone just walks into this blind, it’s probably just going to be the same as it has been since February,” Fjelstad said. “We would have all the same problems. So I definitely think she needs to be involved, and I’ve expressed that.”

Lee agrees with Fjelstad and the fact that Student Council will be different without Beguhn. “Mrs. Beguhn has been great and she’s done a wonderful job the past 15 years here or so, and while I’m sure the next adviser will be qualified to do this job, it’s going to be hard to fully match up to what Mrs. Beguhn has done,” Lee said. “I think next year and the following years it will be a new normal for Student Council and it will be different from what we had in the past.”

Fjelstad also fears what might happen if there is no Student Council. “People don’t really recognize all that we do, and we’ve always been ok with that because we’ve had Beguhn right there saying that she’s proud of us and we’ve had each other so it hasn’t been that big of a deal,” she said. “But I don’t want the student body to find out what’s happened by not getting to experience it. You want to have a homecoming dance, you want to have Rock around the Clock.”

Although not having a Homecoming would be disappointing, Fjelstad recognizes that the school year would move on, however the aftereffects of not having a council next year are discouraging to her. “If there’s no homecoming dance, you’re all going to be fine,” she said. “The school isn’t going to combust. But without Student Council, there’s 50 people who won’t get that life experience of being on it. For a lot of people, that is their team. Student Council is what they do. Everything was getting better, it was all uphill, and now we have to start from scratch. And it’s sad that there’s so many people that aren’t running. I’ve had people say ‘hey take my name off the ballot, I don’t want to run anymore.’ That breaks my heart because we didn’t choose this.”

Despite the fact that there is no adviser yet for next year, Student Council is still going about the process of changing its attendance policy because of the incident that happened this year. “Our policy currently is if you are sick, but you have let us know 24 hours before the meeting, then it is excused,” Miller said. “Generally, if you let us know the day before or the night before, you’re going to be fine. We understand sometimes that you just forget, and that’s why we have up to five absences.”

Administration has now suggested to the council to change the policy to any illness is exempt, and Student Council has taken up this suggestion to avoid problems in the future. Some students on the council are frustrated with the changing of the policy. “This attendance policy has never been an issue,” Miller said. “People have gotten their five absences, they have had an appeal process, and the council votes to keep them on or off, and that’s how it works. There haven’t been problems or anything. It’s just frustrating the way that one student can go behind and circumvent the process of what you’re supposed to do. It’s frustrating that this has an effect on all of us.”

Representatives of Student Council proposed the new policy to the policy committee about two weeks ago. “What the policy is about now is a mechanism for future situations so Student Council officers discipline their own equal, that there’s a clear way of going about doing that to ensure that everyone is being treated fairly and everyone is being heard,” Guthmiller said.

Board member Marci Cordaro is a part of the policy committee on the school board and was at the policy meeting two weeks ago. “The Student Council group presented a proposed policy to the policy committee and we asked questions about it and reviewed it,” Cordaro said. “It was a good policy and I think we had a good discussion.”

The policy was reviewed by the district attorney and many changes were made. The policy committee along with Riessen, Guthmiller and students reviewed the changes on May 2 at a meeting. The committee ended up changing many of the things back to the way they were before. “The district attorneys took out a lot of things that they didn’t feel necessary in the policy,” senior Jeremy Caracci, who is the student body president and student representative on the school board, said. “After discussion with everyone at the meeting, the policy committee realized the importance of the things the district attorney took out. One example being they took out the part where we have to get a signature from all members that they read the Constitution and the policy. There’s no legal basis for taking that out, and we feel it’s protecting the students of Student Council because we want all students to be informed.”

The school board held a first reading of the policy on May 5 at the school board meeting. The board discussed the proposed policy and whether it should become a policy or a regulation. “All board members present were in agreement that whichever it was, we wanted to make sure that it would be good to stay in place for awhile and give good direction if a situation like this ever happened again,” Cordaro said.

The policy committee will now meet again and discuss revisions needed. They hope to have the final policy presented to the board at the board meeting on May 19 for a second reading and a vote on whether or not it becomes a policy. “I think we have had some really good conversations and meetings with the students on this issue,” Cordaro said. “I have really been impressed with the students’ involvement and thoughtfulness about the whole process. I know that the students would really like for this to be completed before the school year ends, and I really hope we can make that happen.”

Cordaro knows the students are frustrated with how slow the process is, and she understands. “We want this to be a good policy, and so if it takes a little bit of extra time and some more revision, even though that’s disappointing to the group of students, especially the seniors, we still want to make it good,” Cordaro said. “And I told them that this is already in the works and we’re not just going to let it go, we understand that this is really important.”

Guthmiller also recognizes the frustration from students and understands. “The bottom line is the administration makes the decision based upon our interpretation of it, we make a decision and go it with,” Guthmiller said. “You have to move forward with things in life and that’s what we’re doing now. I think we’re working toward a resolution, and it’s important that students are heard. I’ve told people we have a history of having students having a strong voice and being heard in everything we do, so I think we’re heading in the right direction.”