Students tell Wichita district how they’d like schools to change

Smaller classes and better lunches.

More understanding and sportsmanship among Wichita’s high schools.

Less hate and “more hugs.”

The list of things Wichita students would like to see happen at their schools ranged from trivial to serious, according to about 80 students who met with superintendent John Allison and other district officials Wednesday.

The students were members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, or SuperSAC, and others who had been recommended by their principals to participate in the discussion. SuperSAC members – two from each of the district’s 10 high schools – meet monthly with Allison to talk about issues important to them.

Last fall, the group weighed in on new school boundaries, grandfathering, special transfer policies and other issues.

“Your suggestions played a huge role in what we ended up doing and the decisions the board made,” Allison told the students.

In small groups Wednesday, students discussed four topics: what their schools do well, what needs improvement, the biggest challenge facing high school students, and what the district could do to help with that challenge.

Derick Holmes, a sophomore at Southeast High, said too many students bad-mouth their schools or others in the district.

“We could do a lot better with school spirit and school pride,” he said.

“Don’t drink the hate-orade,” another student added.

Seth McDaniel, a Northwest High senior, said too many students “are just content with the bare minimum, getting D’s or whatever it takes to pass.”

Schools need to raise expectations, offer incentives for improvement and “increase awareness of how good grades will translate to the rest of your life,” he said.

“And also, more hugs,” McDaniel said. “We need to hug our students more.”

The other students smiled and applauded.

Keison Walker, a sophomore at Heights, said that among the biggest challenges facing students are fitting in and peer pressure, particularly on social media.

Heights pairs junior and senior “peer leaders” with underclassmen for special activities so “kids feel more comfortable around each other,” Walker said.

Kylie Pozehl, a South High sophomore, suggested a meeting similar to SuperSAC with middle school students, where high schoolers could lead the discussion.

“So many middle schoolers have so many questions: What is high school like? Is it hard?” she said. “If you had one of these meetings led by us, maybe they would feel better and not so scared and not so stressed out.”

Allison, the superintendent, said district leaders and school board members will review the comments and suggestions made during the biannual advisory meeting.

“You’re the reason all of us are here,” he said. “It doesn’t do any good to ask (for input) if we’re not going to act in one capacity or another.”