SHUSD board meets with students at South Fork

On Thursday, Feb. 27 the Southern Humboldt Unified School District board of trustees had a meeting at South Fork High School with the students during regular school hours. The board had three sessions of about an hour each, one with the eighth graders, one with the 10th and 12th graders, and one with 9th and 11th graders.

Each session began with student trustees Kathy Petersen and Tyler Hensley explaining that the board was there to hear comments and answer questions about school from the students. They said this is the only school board that meets with students, and asked everyone to be respectful.

The meeting was conducted in such a way that the students, seated on the bleachers facing the board, were called on by board chair Thomas Mulder when they raised their hand and students remained in their seats to make their comments or ask questions.

Throughout the day several recurring points were brought up by each group. The students were curious about the new junior high at South Fork and what was happening with construction at the high school.

District superintendent Catherine Scott explained to each group that when the junior high school opens in the fall it will be a closed campus, and though the junior high and senior high will share the gym and cafeteria, they will be using them at different times. There will be some new teachers at the junior high and some of the high school teachers will walk over to the junior high to teach some classes. There will be no commingling of junior high and senior high students at school.

She told each group that construction will start on B and C wings at the high school in April and they will be modernized and upgraded. The goal is that next year high school students will be using redone B and C wings. She said new locker rooms and showers for the gym will probably be started in May.

All underground infrastructure is being upgraded in phases, including new water pipes so there could be drinking fountains.

Scott said that farther along into the future plans include a new kitchen and multi-purpose room where they will eat and there will be a stage, and the music room and the bathrooms will be remodeled.

Students had questions about the clock tower at the junior high and asked about the landscape around the schools.

At this point in each session trustees Blake Lehman, Dennis O'Sullivan and Tom Mulder gave brief explanations about bond measures for school construction and upgrades.

Lack of supervision and newer books in the library, and the problems students have accessing the computers in the library were concerns of all grade levels. Students said they needed access to the library and often found it closed. They also said that the computers were often broken and this provoked a lot of discussion. Trustees reminded students not to tolerate other kids vandalizing the computers. One student thought they might be trying to get them to work. Scott explained that a technician had been hired and he was the one who should fix the computers.

Scott agreed that there should be supervision at the library and student access to the library and computers.

On the issues of broken computers and vandalizing of bathrooms trustees admonished the students to take better care of the school and not tolerate bad behavior by other students.

The board asked each group if they wanted lockers for their books. Most students said yes. The eighth graders said they had problems with theft on campus and on the buses.

All grades said they wanted drinking fountains and hot water in all the bathrooms.

After-school detention for being tardy to class five times in a month was a big issue with both the 9th and 11th grade group and the 10th and 12th grade group.

Scott explained when principal Lisa Gray came to the school tardiness was a problem and so the consequence for five tardies in a month was raised from lunchtime detention to two hours of after-school detention. Scott pointed out that since the after-school detention had been instigated the instances of tardiness had dropped. Students were particularly upset about not being able to take the bus after detention and also they said they were only notified they had detention on the day of the detention, which caused problems for their parents since the students miss the bus. The students said the clocks at the school were all wrong. Scott said that was true. The trustees reminded the students they need to be on time.

This provoked a great deal of discussion and back and forth, sometimes strongly worded on both sides. The teachers who were there joined in. It was acknowledged that there needed to be better communication and more notification about after-school detention. However, the 10th and 12th grade group said the board had not treated their concerns respectfully.

Other requests from students included an option of another language besides Spanish, reinstating the agriculture class, the culinary class and the Earth Club. Students wanted more support for the music program. They said they needed more buses that went farther.

Overall the meeting was generally respectful and some students expressed appreciation. One student complemented the new janitor.


The Southern Humboldt Unified School District board of trustees met with students in the South Fork gym.