ThunderRidge students react to board election

Teens’ boycott plans gain district’s attention

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ThunderRidge High School students’ plans to boycott classes in objection to the Douglas County School Board election results were deterred when administration leaders offered to meet with them.

“I guess that’s the goal — is to get recognition and get our voices heard,” senior Austin Stover said. “At least the teachers have votes; we don’t get anything.”

Assistant superintendent of secondary education Dan McMinimee scheduled a Nov. 12 meeting with several of the students.

“The Douglas County School District honors critical thinking, the right of young adults to disagree, and handling those disagreements in an appropriate and productive manner,” according to an email sent by district spokeswoman Michelle Yi. “Enabling delinquent behavior among students doesn't resolve any disagreements.

“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation that has been circulating about the District. Mr. McMinimee looks forward to meeting with these students to hear their concerns and provide any factual information they might need.”

The students, discouraged by the election of Doug Benevento, Jim Geddes, Judi Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn over the four candidates many teachers and parents supported, began tweeting Nov. 6 about taking some form of action to protest the results. One student included Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen in the exchange.

Stover said he was “shocked” by the election results.

“I knew what it meant,” he said. “I knew how many teachers would probably leave ThunderRidge, and would probably leave Douglas County.”

ThunderRidge senior Chris Thompson felt similarly.

“The day after the election, from my perspective, it seemed like all the teachers were heartbroken,” Thompson said.

Students also were talking about the potential impact on them.

“A bunch of teachers at our school are leaving, ones that have been there forever and are part of the school,” he said.

The idea of boycotting classes “caught on really fast,” Stover said. “We started tweeting at about 1:30. At about 5 p.m., my parents got a call from the assistant principal.”

The phone call included an offer for the students to meet with Johnson and McMinimee.

“It definitely caught their attention,” Thompson said. “That was good because now we have a meeting with them. We really get to sit down and voice our opinion. Who knows? They really could take what they say to heart.”

Stover said the idea of a boycott was student led and not motivated by any adults.

Thompson and Stover said the district policies prompted many teachers to leave the school in 2013. They now believe more will follow.

“They don’t feel like they’re cared about,” said Stover, whose mother is a teacher. “Honestly, we as students don’t feel cared about either.”

“A lot of the newer teachers just aren’t as good,” Thompson said. “My brother is a freshman and he’s noticing it. It just seems it’s going to be all new teachers and the school is going to go a little bit downhill.”

Tim Stover, Austin’s father, said the students have legitimate concerns, and he credited the high school for giving them the opportunity to voice them.

“Their message needs to be heard,” he said. “They’re trying to stand up for the teachers. They see something is really wrong with that many teachers leaving their school.”

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