Archived Story

A.L. school officials should thank students

Published 9:09am Friday, April 22, 2011

Column: Guest Column

As an Albert Lea High School graduate, I was glad to see how aggressively parents and students questioned and opposed cuts to the Albert Lea band program.

Whether the cuts the school board made prove to be the right decision is beside the point. What was important was that the community, including many young people, got involved in the process.

The school board and Superintendent Mike Funk should commend the parents, and even more so the students, for voicing their disagreement.

As a reporter, I’ve sat through many public meetings where important decisions made where the audience seats were all empty.

I’ve heard countless complaints from parents, administrators and teachers that students don’t get involved and that they devote too much time to video games and other idle entertainment. Students became involved here and showed they care about their education. School officials ought to express their respect for that.

Yet appreciation for student involvement has not been evident. Funk was quoted in the Tribune as saying, “People in Albert Lea are passionate about their fine arts. Passion can be a great thing when properly harnessed.”

Such a statement implies — perhaps intentionally, perhaps not — that the students and parents who voiced their opinions were misguided in questioning the board’s decision.

Questioning the decisions of public officials is never misguided, and it almost always shows a passion deserving of respect. Such passion and involvement should be welcomed, especially during difficult economic times.

Even though the board may not have heard students’ and parents’ complaints this time, that shouldn’t discourage them from attending the next board meeting and the meeting after that. Don’t hesitate to voice your opinion again or disagree with the decision.

I hope the students speak even louder next time the school board, city council or county board make a decision that will affect them.

Jason Schoonover is a 2005 graduate of Albert Lea High School and a reporter at the Austin Daily Herald.