Why student listening session did not work


Katie Whaley

Students may have a difficult time imagining RBHS without principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad, who has been here since the 2012-2013 school year. Fantasizing a school without Rukstad is difficult not only because Dr. Rukstad cultivates and expresses the culture of “freedom with responsibility” so effortlessly, but students now have known no other leader of RBHS.
Her departure at the end of the school year will leave a gaping hole in the school’s administration, and her replacement has much to live up to.
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, Columbia Public Schools (CPS) hosted a “listening session” in the RBHS media center where CPS Chief Human Resources Officer Nickie Smith spoke.
CPS organized the hearing in order to receive student feedback over what qualities students wanted in the new principal so that CPS can hire a person that will best represent the student population.
Only three freshmen girls attended.
There are many reasons as to why the turnout of this event was so disappointing, and they do not all fall at the fault of CPS.

Education, a topic that should concern students more

As students, we should be more involved in our education and our school. An opportunity to speak directly to the district about a decision that will impact students is rare, and the chance to have a say in who will become our head administrator is even more extraordinary.
Shame on us for not going.
There should have been athletes at that meeting declaring the new principal should believe in giving athletes fourth-hour Alternate Unassigned Times so that they don’t miss 10 math classes in a row.
There should have been more Rock Bridge Reaches Out members demanding the new principal commemorate and prioritize volunteer work and services.
Even a kid asking for the new principal to commence Taco Thursdays would have been something.
CPS gave us the ability to give limitless input, and we blew it.
Shame on us for not going.

More than a lack of student involvement

The issue, however, is more than just a lack of student involvement. CPS and RBHS did not advertise the event enough, and students were oblivious of the meeting entirely. The only place that posted the information about the session was in the InfoBruin. The message in the InfoBruin read: “Student listening session with CPS Chief Human Resources Officer, Nickie Smith, has been rescheduled for 8:00 a.m. on February 27 in the Media Center.”
Not many students receive the InfoBruin, and even if they do, it was unclear as to what the “student listening session” was referring to. Also, because of the weather, CPS had to reschedule the event from its original date, which caused even more confusion.
The information should have been sent out in a place where students did not already have to be subscribed to, a place where all students had easy access to it.
RBHS should have made it more clear in the InfoBruin as to the topic of the session, its purpose and how students could get involved and make a change. Those things should have also been told to students in other, more accessible ways, such as posting it on the RBHS website’s homepage, posters and announcement over the intercom the day before.
In addition, teachers should have talked about it in their classes for students to know. It would not be a waste of class time to explain the session and why students should attend; the change in principal will affect all students, staff, faculty and classes. Informing students on opportunities they have to instill change is crucial to reminding them of their importance and abilities in the world.
Additionally, the time in which the meeting took place was problematic. Teenagers have difficulty waking up early in the morning, which is why CPs was lauded for switching high schools to its late start time, and an 8 a.m. meeting may just be too early for some students.
Plus, students who ride the bus or do not have a ride to school that arrives by 8 a.m. could not attend the meeting at all, no matter if they could get up early or not. There was no consideration for the equity of students when this meeting time was planned so early in the morning.


The session should have been held during A and B lunches, where every student has the opportunity and ability to go to the hearing. If this meeting were truly for student involvement and input, CPS and RBHS should have held it at a time where all students were able to attend.
CPS asking for student opinions is an amazing feat and shows the district cares about students’ voices; however, the session itself was not advertised or planned at a reasonable time, and therefore fell through. Students should also care about these events and go to participate in them. Next time a meeting like this occurs, CPS should accommodate to better fit students’ schedules, and students should involve themselves and voice their opinions.
In order to properly consider student needs, CPS should hold another listening session next week. The meeting should take place during the school day at a time where all students can attend and there should be more accessible advertisement for the event to ensure student awareness.
What attributes do you want in the new principal? Comment below!