Student cabinet meets in Bismarck

State superintendent of public instruction Kirsten Baesler has named 20 students from across the state to her Superintendent’s Student Cabinet. Members of the cabinet offer a student perspective about educational policy and opportunity.

The first meeting of the group was held Thursday in Bismarck.

Baesler founded her first cabinet in April 2015. Members are appointed to serve for 18 months. Of the cabinet’s newly chosen students, five will be serving a second term. Ninety-six students applied to be considered.

Cabinet members include Annabelle Maher, a fourth grader at Legacy Elementary in West Fargo; Aidan Pelton, a fourth grader from Watford City;  Karlee Hoyt, a fifth grader at Round Prairie Elementary in Williston; Tyson Odermann, a sixth grader from Parshall; Lucy Pulver, a sixth grader from Hazen; Hannah Radzwill, a sixth grader from Mohall; Aidan Bertsch, a seventh grader at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo; Reilly Meyer, a seventh grader at Dickinson Trinity; Garrett Meehl, an eighth grader from Oakes; Thomas Tiegs, an eighth grader from Ellendale; Tegan Amundson, a ninth grader at Richland County 44 High School in Colfax; Skyler Strand, a ninth grader at Bismarck High School; Gracie Johnsrud, a 10th grader at Watford City High School; Victoria Schweitzer, a 10th grader at Legacy High School in Bismarck; Karena Verbitsky, an 11th grader at South Prairie High School in Minot; Lynna Ngo, a 12th grader at Fargo South High School; Dawson Schefter, a 12th grader at Langdon High School; Austin Weigel, a 12th grader at Fargo Shanley; Peyton Cole, Park River, a freshman at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks; Cole Garman, Mandan, a freshman at the University of Jamestown.

Six of the Cabinet members are elementary school students.  “As an elementary teacher for many years, and as a vice principal in an elementary school, I often had the opportunity to interact with Student Council members,” Baesler said. “Elementary students are honest. They have clarity in their thoughts and observations. They are eager to share their ideas with frankness and openness.”

Student Cabinet applicants were required to submit letters of recommendation and write answers to a series of questions, including a question on what they believed to be the biggest issue facing students in North Dakota. The applications were then evaluated and ranked by a team of people outside of the superintendent’s office.

Since its inception, the Student Cabinet has provided invaluable advice, Baesler said in a press release.

“In meetings of the first Student Cabinet, we discussed policy. We discussed early childhood education. We discussed federal law. We discussed assessments, the importance of college entrance exams,” Baesler said. “We discussed the ideas of having more opportunities for a broader array of electives for all of our students.”

The Cabinet has 11 females and nine males, from 16 North Dakota communities: Abercrombie, Bismarck, Dickinson, Ellendale, Fargo, Hazen, Langdon, Mandan, Minot, Mohall, Oakes, Park River, Parshall, Watford City, West Fargo and Williston. Two members are from nonpublic schools, Dickinson Trinity High School and Fargo Shanley High School.

Baesler said she wants to hear students’ unvarnished opinions.

“We want to make sure that we’re hearing about the good things that we’re doing in our North Dakota schools, so we can keep doing those,” Baesler said. “But we also need to hear from students who aren’t having such a great experience, and learn from them how we can adjust and change to improve the experience for students.”