RIMS students speak up, principal listens and acts

Megan Buffington
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***One day Ramstein Intermediate School principal Bonnie Bowen-Hannan listened in on a class as students presented papers on what they thought could be done to improve the school.

Impressed with their ideas, she created a Student Advisory Council, made up of representatives from each classroom of fourth and fifth graders, to meet once a month and discuss issues that they feel are vital to the school.

“It is good for the students to have face-to-face time with me,” said Mrs. Bowen-Hannan, who ran similar student groups at other schools. “I want them to know that I value their thoughts. This is their school and they should have some say in how it is run.”

At each meeting, run very similar to a high school student council meeting, students bring proposals, in the form of a letter, in which they express a problem that they would like the council to discuss.

At a recent meeting, student Rachel Bogue raised her hand, stood and then read her letter aloud: Students, she said, have complained that they cannot hear the morning and afternoon announcements. She suggested that the announcements “be given by a fifth-grader to help them practice their speaking skills and because it would be easier for the school to hear” if it were an older student.

Student Sam Friday raised his hand to suggest the next topic. “People in my class have some concerns about the fights on the playground,” he said.
Last school year, a big issue for the council was bullying on the playground. Mrs. Bowen-Hannan pushed the students to come up with solutions.
“Why do you think kids are getting in so many fights?” she prompted the students.

Student Roxanne Roman said, “some of the students don’t take the monitors seriously.”

A suggestion was that the monitors should have more power and be allowed to give out detention. Then, they would be taken more seriously.

Mrs. Bowen-Hannan told the council she would attend recess as often as she could. “If bullying is becoming as big of a problem as you all feel it is, then we should take it to the Character Education Committee,” she said.

She will invite a CEC representative to the next council meeting, she said.

SAC has already made changes to their school. The council recently invited the AAFES manager Sonja Gates to their last meeting to discuss some concerns they had with the school lunches.

They talked with Ms. Gates for 45 minutes about issues including making skim milk available, a salad bar, more choices for lactose intolerant children, adding ice cream, the amount of ketchup each student was allowed to have and vending machines.

They succeeded in getting skim milk and ice cream added to their lunches.
The school SAC has had such an impact that the School Advisory Committee, made up of parents, teachers and administrators, would like a student representative to attend their meeting and give input, Mrs. Bowen-Hannan said.

“The Student Advisory Council helps give the students leadership skills, learn how to present their ideas in an organized way and develop higher level thinking skills,” she said.