Two Cass Middle School students have the opportunity to share their ideas for improving Georgia’s education system with the state school superintendent.
Seventh-grader Emily Surcey and eighth-grader Logan Nelson were among the 110 middle and high school students chosen by Superintendent Richard Woods to serve on his 2015-16 Student Advisory Council, which will meet throughout the school year to discuss the impact of state policies in the classroom, as well as other issues related to education. Members, who were notified of their selection two weeks ago, also will serve as the superintendent’s ambassadors to their respective schools.
“Students feel the impact of our decisions every day,” Woods said in a press release. “If we are going to develop child-focused, classroom-centered policies, we must hear directly from students. We can only improve their educational experience by bringing them to the table.”
Emily, 12, and Logan, 13, were excited to find out they’d been chosen for the council.
“I felt that it is such an honor to be chosen for a council that is dedicated to improving education,” Emily said, noting her teacher, Jackie Cissa, suggested she apply. “In the middle of the school day, my principal [Dr. Kristy Arnold] asked me to come up from my in-session class to her office. She acted so serious, like I did something wrong, and then surprised me with the news. I was so shocked and honored to be a new member of the council.”
“I feel good about it,” Logan, son of Michael and Staci Nelson, said. “I felt excited that I was chosen out of all those that applied.”
He added his principal also called him into her office, “trying to make me think I was in trouble.”
“She then told me the news,” he said. “My dad [the principal at Cass High] sent me a text about the same time congratulating me.”
Arnold said she is a “very proud principal.”
“I know both Emily and Logan will be excellent representatives for Cass Middle and the Bartow County School System,” she said.
Members were selected from a pool of more than 1,500 students who applied to serve on the council and were chosen based on the strength of their essay answers, which focused on their ideas for public education and ways their own educational experience could be improved.
The students chosen represent charter, virtual and traditional public schools in every Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) district in Georgia.
“It was refreshing and valuable to hear feedback from these students, as well as their ideas for education in Georgia,” Woods said. “This is a great group of students with smart, varied ideas for the future of our educational system. I look forward to working with them, and I’d like to thank every student who took the time to apply and share his or her thoughts.”
Logan said he applied for the council because he “thought it would be a good experience to try something new.”
“I really had no idea I would get selected,” he said. “My dad kind of wanted me to try something new.”
Emily, daughter of Mike and Andrea Surcey, said she wanted to be a council member because she thinks she can “help my school and possibly other schools improve their education.”
The two Cartersville residents have some definite ideas on what problems are plaguing Georgia’s public schools.
“I think that one of the biggest problems in public education right now is ill-behaved students that disrespect their teachers,” Emily said. “For example, the well-behaved students have to suffer the consequences for the ill-behaved student’s actions.”
Logan said a lack of money for good teachers and programs is the biggest problem he sees right now.
“I hear a lot of times that things may be cut or [about] the time teachers have to spend doing so much because there are not enough teachers to spread the work out,” he said.
They also have some good suggestions for improving Georgia’s schools, as well as their own educational experience.
“I would like to have more CTAE [career, technical and agricultural education] types of courses for middle school,” Logan said. “My dad asks me a lot about what I want to do when I grow up, but right now, I do not know because I don’t know what all is out there.”
He said he wants to see “more different types of classes rather than just the math, science, ELA [English/language arts] classes.”
“I like those, but other things I can do with computers or careers would be fun,” he said. “Maybe not so much homework would be good, too.”
Emily said she believes “mandatory daily physical exercise, weekly spelling tests and more appetizing school lunches could improve the overall quality of public education in Georgia.”
“I think that the school lunches could be improved with fresh ideas like a potato or salad bar with chicken or steak toppings,” she said. “Also a mandatory daily physical exercise program that includes the students [and] the staff and possibly a 20-minute homeroom exercise that can help refresh the brain for higher-level thinking. Weekly spelling tests could improve a student’s vocabulary usage throughout the school year.”
The middle schoolers on the council will meet three times — Monday is their first meeting, followed by meetings Nov. 9 and March 28, 2016 — at the Georgia Department of Education’s offices in Atlanta. The council also will hold two virtual meetings during the school year.
“I am looking forward to meeting other kids who share the same interests as I do,” said Emily, who will be accompanied to the meetings by her “very supportive” mother. “I also am looking forward to seeing all the busy streets and tall buildings. I think that I will learn a lot from this upcoming experience and really get to know what it takes to influence education in the state of Georgia.”
Logan, whose dad will take him to the meetings, said he’s most excited about “going to Atlanta and seeing the offices there and, of course, a day out of school.”