“By: Ashley Winterstein
Many proud parents, teachers, and community members gathered in the auditorium of Kent Island High School on June 10, 2009 to celebrate the First Historical Inauguration of the Student Government Association.
The evening began with a dynamic processional during which each Officer, Senator, Justice, and Executive Board members for the 2009-2010 school year were announced and took their places on the stage.
Encouraging remarks were directed to the officers-elect by Denise Hershberger, Principal of Kent Island High School, Willie Waits, Academic Dean, and Dr. Carol Williamson, Superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. Each comment showed the unwavering support for these new officers and the belief that they will be a positive voice for their peers.
Vice Principal of Kent Island High School, Kaylene Kovach spoke to the parents of these talented students when she said, “You should be proud, parents. As proud as we are. Thank you for sharing your children with us. They are truly a joy.”
The keynote speaker for the evening, Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Courtney Billups, gave encouragement and advice to the newly elected representatives using his life experiences in politics. He reminded the officers that the most important thing is to follow through with what they have been entrusted by their fellow students to accomplish during the next school year.
Billups also encouraged the officers to simply be themselves through the decision making process, because they were elected by their peers due to their personality and character. When challenges arise, Billups recommended that they simply go back to the basics – the fundamentals that have always made them successful. He stated, “If you don’t stand by your decision, you probably didn’t make the right one.”
He also remarked that this generation is the greatest of all generations because they have the benefit of the successes and the mistakes of those who came before them. Billups declared, “We’re counting on you to lead this great nation, as we are counting on you to lead this great school.”
Although this is not the first year Kent Island High School has had a Student Government Association (SGA), it is the first year James Evans has served as the Advisor. Upon his appointment on January 30, 2009, Evans was quick to organize and unify the members and officers of the SGA, including those ninth grade members who take classes at the Matapeake Annex. He stressed to his students that they must be accountable for their actions and immediately drafted position descriptions and a purpose statement to clarify any uncertainty. Evans also added a Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch to the existing Executive Branch and developed organizational charts for each of the departments in the reorganized SGA.
Evans states that, “The Kent Island High School Student Government Association was created to provide an official student representative body to receive questions and suggestions, promote the rights of each student of the School, participate in the overall policy and decision making process of the School community, foster awareness of the students’ role in the academic community, assist in enhancing the quality and scope of education, provide means for responsible and effective participation in all facets of school campus life and provide identified services to students.”
As part of this renewed purpose and direction, SGA members must attend mandatory training seminars that cover a variety of leadership and management modules. Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is an important tool used to improve the behavior and academic success of the students. Brad Engel, Chair of PBIS, works closely with Evans to decrease negative referrals and behaviors of bullying, harassment, drug abuse, and school crime. All SGA members and officers are expected to participate in and reinforce the ideals of the PBIS program.
Character Counts! has also been integrated into Kent Island High School classrooms and the training of SGA members and officers. Character Coaches visit individual classrooms in the ninth grade twice a month to teach students the importance of exemplifying the Six Pillars of Character -Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. According to Jacki Carter, Coordinator of Character Counts/Assets in Queen Anne’s County, “Leadership without character is going nowhere.”
The collaboration between PBIS and Character Counts! is very strong, as both programs strive to teach expectations, empower positive decisions, and acknowledge positive behavior choices with a combined goal to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm. Both programs agree that it takes the entire community to raise developmentally healthy children who will become our future leaders and caregivers.
The 2009-2010 SGA President, John Rossbach, has readily accepted his new leadership position and affirms that, “With the addition of our new Legislative and Judicial Boards the SGA will strive to do better things for KIHS next year. As SGA President, I will ensure that each student is more aware of school policies and procedures and be very supportive to our Administration.””
The respect felt by the students is certainly reciprocated as Principal Denise Hershberger believes that, “We all bring our different talents and we all have different ways to contribute, but what we all need to have in common is respect and honor for the well being of each of us as individuals. That is why we seek to model and teach the value of character to our students. I am very proud of the direction our SGA has taken. It is moving in a positive direction providing leadership to our student body … This fine group of students is going to make a difference and I am proud to be their principal.”
This cooperation between students and faculty is one of the main purposes of the revitalized SGA and has obviously been readily accepted by both parties. Evans is quick to express that, “The success of the development of the SGA is only because my Principal, Mrs. Denise Hershberger, has allowed me to work with them. She is a constant supporter and the chief motivator of the SGA.””
With the enormous amount of support and unity from their Principal, SGA Advisor, Character Coaches, and PBIS Chairs, the 2009-2010 school year is certain to be exciting and successful for the newly elected SGA officers.