The second of the two new Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change (SRSC) trustees was officially sworn in at the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board meeting on Monday.
Big River High School Grade 12 student Deziree Zacharias will fill the role after the first candidate stepped down due to a busy schedule. Zacharias said she was asked to serve in the position at Big River last year. She has since warmed up to the idea, and has now become rural trustee.
“I did this and I said, ‘okay, it is something different outside my comfort zone,’” Zacharais said. “I was like, ‘I kind of want to learn more about schools,’ because I feel bad for our teachers when our students (say), ‘oh, we need this, we need that or I wish we had this.’ Teachers actually want their kids to succeed and do really good, but they feel really bad when they can’t get the students what the students want.”
Zacharais said it has been interesting to learn about things like the school division budgeting process.
“That’s something I kind of wanted to learn more about and how the schools go about it and how everything kind of happens,” she said. “I don’t know anything that happens in the teacher world.
“It’s something new that I want to try and learn about.”
She has already been learning about the process during one-on-one meetings with superintendent Garette Tebay, who is in charge of the SRSC this year.
“I learned a lot about teachers that I didn’t know, it opens me to a whole new world,” she said.
Max Pahtayken is a 14-year old Grade 10 student from PACI and the youngest ever SRSC student trustee and was sworn in during the October meeting. Mallie Mitchell from Birch Hills School was initially elected but resigned her position in October due to other community and school commitments.
Zacharias was elected in a by-election at the last SRSC meeting. Zacharias was previously the media relations officer.
Board chair Darlene Rowden called Zacharias to the front to take the oath of office and sign forms for the office during Monday’s school board meeting.
In her report, Zacharias discussed events happening in schools and attendance problems in the division. Zacharias also wanted to see more spirit in younger students at her school because school spirit can also help improve attendance. She also gave examples of fun things the Canwood School and Debden School are doing to be active in the community.
“It was great to have a new rural trustee,” Sask. Rivers education director Robert Bratvold said. “The report she brought, it had a little bit about some school activities and some good discussion around attendance and departmentals and the letter to the Minister, so some really good items that she brought forward from the student voice group.”
Zacharias said the group discussed Departmental Exams at the most recent SRSC meeting. The group has written a letter to Minister of Education Dustin Duncan explaining the struggle that students have with them. One concept she mentioned was that sometimes math from regular classes do not crossover to Departmental Exams.
“For someone in Regina, they don’t know for rural schools how it is being taught, so the outcome is taught different. Many students, their averages really drop with Departmental so we decided to write a letter to the Minister,” Zacharias said.
The letter has yet to be sent to Duncan. Departmental Exams are also something that is discussed at the board level and a concern at the division level, according to Bratvold.
“As a division we have some really good data that suggests Departmentals are inequitable and ineffective in many ways and (we’re) trying to help the government and ministry see that and make some changes,” he said. “It was good and we knew the information because of some voices from students and from other sources too, so it was really good to hear that really focused SRSC discussion and the resulting letter to the Minister.
“I know that the minister will look carefully at anything that comes directly from student voices so I hope this is treated with the same consideration.”
The Admin level has started to put together an attendance committee to find ways to enhance communication and incentivize and encourage parents around attendance.
Overall Zacharias is looking to make a difference.
“I’m hoping that I can try and do something in my school to change it a little bit,” she said. “Whether it happens in the five years or so. At least I was kind of a voice in there—just kind of learn and see what I can do for my own school because I have younger siblings there. Anything to make their school lives a little easier or better is always good for me so that I know that they are doing good and getting what they need at least.”
Zacharias added that she is still learning and hasn’t completely figured things out, but that is a goal.