Yelm School Board Highlights McKenna Elementary School, Elects Student Representatives

By Jacob Dimond /  jake@yelmonline.com
Posted 5/17/22

The Yelm School Board held a study session on Thursday, May 12, which highlighted progress at McKenna Elementary School and also featured the election of new student representatives.

Jodi Jarmin, …

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Yelm School Board Highlights McKenna Elementary School, Elects Student Representatives

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The Yelm School Board held a study session on Thursday, May 12, which highlighted progress at McKenna Elementary School and also featured the election of new student representatives.

Jodi Jarmin, who will be the new principal at McKenna Elementary School next year, discussed McKenna’s “No Excuses University” mantra, which started in 2018.

“Even throughout the pandemic we’ve continued to use No Excuses University as our slogan,” Jarmin said.

The program aims to get all of its students to meet academic standards in reading, writing and math. Jarmin said the elementary school has made progress to meet those goals.

“We’re seeing amazing gains out of our youngest learners in kindergarten and first grade,” Jarmin said. “The same is occurring with our older grades. We’re really seeing the needle move there.”

McKenna Elementary School also stresses college readiness for all. In order to help develop their students’ interest in attending college, each McKenna Elementary classroom adopted a university from across the country. Some of the selected schools included the University of Michigan and the University of Washington.

Fourth and fifth graders are assigned projects where they research the universities. The students then create informative videos related to their selected universities, highlighting the location and the cost to attend.

“It’s a significant shift in grade five to grade six in how these students continue to view college. We appreciate this college readiness work,” Superintendent Brian Wharton said.

Jarmin also noted that McKenna Elementary is looking to bring back its Student of the Month award assembly with more parent involvement. The elementary school wants to welcome back the families of students and make sure they feel involved.

Following the spotlight on McKenna Elementary School, the board of directors interviewed three candidates for the junior representative position at the district, marking the third iteration of students being voted onto the school board as representatives. 

Once a student is elected, they serve the term during their junior year, before being sworn in again as a senior. Wharton said the board of directors see the position as important since the elected student will represent close to 600 students next year.

The three students interviewed included Damian Aalona, Madisyn Erickson and Lilly Williams. The incoming juniors were separately asked a series of six questions, which included questions about their character, areas for improvement on campus, how they would represent their classmates and what extracurricular activities they’re involved in.

“The role of the student board reps is to bring first hand voice to the board as they govern the district. Student reps are non-voting members, but participate in board preparation and discussion equally,” Wharton said. “Our student reps also conduct focus groups at schools and meet with their school principal monthly.”

Wharton said the board has a succession plan in place for the student representatives. The senior representative serves in the lead role while the junior representative learns and prepares to move into the senior position.

“Our reps also attend professional development alongside the board,” Wharton said.

After the interviews, the board informed the students they were all selected to be junior representatives.

“As we discussed in our break, our policy does not define how many representatives we can have,” Wharton said. “In this case, we will elect three representatives to the junior board. We’re going to try really hard to calendar our events around their events outside of school. We never want to put our students in a position to make them choose.”

Wharton told the Nisqually Valley News that he foresees the student representatives “doing significant work in the area of positive sportsmanship at athletic contests and activities, and helping strengthen our student sense of belonging on campuses” next year.

Also at the meeting, Vice President Bill Hauss noted the board of directors will soon bring back in-person study sessions. The meetings have been taking place in a virtual format.

The next Yelm School Board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on May 26 at the district office.

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