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Student representative on school board eager for experience

July 24, 2013|By KAREN MAWDSLEY | karen.mawdsley@herald-mail.com
  • Jessan Groenendyk, a senior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, is the new student representative on the Washington County Board of Education.
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

Jessan Groenendyk has some goals as the new student representative on the Washington County Board of Education.

“I’ve always wanted to make my voice heard in the community,” Groenendyk said. “I also want to make sure the students’ interests are represented in the county as well.”

Groenendyk, 17, took his seat on the School Board on July 1. As the student selected for a one-year term by Washington County’s Association of Student Councils, he is expected to attend board meetings, which are held twice a month.

When school resumes, Groenendyk will be a senior at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, a public magnet high school in downtown Hagerstown that opened its doors to students for the 2009-10 school year. He has attended the school since ninth grade, after his family moved from Iowa, where his mother served on the school board, he said.

“I’ve always been interested in local politics,” Groenendyk said. “I think it’s an important thing.”

As he takes the seat held in the last school year by 2013 North Hagerstown High School graduate Amanda Kreh-biel, whose term ended June 30, Groenendyk brings with him three years of student government background and a strong desire to make heard the voices of all students in Washington County Public Schools. He said that desire was his reason for applying for the student representative position.

The selection process involved an application, essay, teacher recommendations and a speech followed by a question-and-answer session at a county student government association meeting. He ran against one opponent.

Jessan “is a really nice kid. He’s very well-spoken,” Krehbiel said. “He seems pretty willing to work hard for this.”

Krehbiel said the most important thing she learned during her tenure was to speak up, and to do it from the get-go.

“We only have a year on the board, so find your voice quickly and learn how to use it, she said. “A year seems like a lot of time, but it’s not.”

She also said it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the county and to hone in on issues the student population wants addressed. During her term, Krehbiel worked to have the School Board revamp the dress code.

Groenendyk said Krehbiel had given him quite a bit of advice.

“I’m willing to listen to what the board members have to say because, obviously, they’ve had more experience than me. They’re wiser,” Groenendyk said.

He will be the sixth student representative with whom Board of Education President Justin Hartings has worked.

“I’m hoping for a student who’s not afraid to speak his or her mind, who’s not afraid to roll up their sleeves,” Hartings said. “I think Amanda is a good example of that.”

Although Krehbiel said she was “uncomfortable at first,” she  became more comfortable as her term progressed. She said she realized that “as the student member, you are the voice of students on the board. You have to speak up.”

Hartings said Groenendyk has already been to a few board meetings since he was elected. His first meeting as student representative was July 16.

Hartings cited the budget, principal appointments, redistricting votes, the transition to Common Core standards and a new assessment system as big issues for the 2013-14 school year.

“The biggest thing that has an impact on students is the transition to new state standards,” Hartings said. “That’s an area where I think a student board member would be helpful.”

Another potential legislative item concerns voting rights of the student representative.

Although the student representative can assert his or her position on an issue by raising a hand, the vote does not count. There have been proposals to change this, Hartings said, but none has passed.

Regardless of whether his vote counts, Groenendyk said he plans to make his voice and that of the student body heard.

He already has some items on his own agenda that he wants to bring up.

He said he and Krehbiel talked about electing the student to be student representative as a sophomore so he or she could serve the following school year as an intern to the current student representative, following which the intern would assume the duties of the representative.

He also spoke of an interest in creating weekly hourlong professional development meetings for teachers built into the school day, like those he saw growing up in Iowa. He said these would increase communication among faculty.

Groenendyk said he wants to increase communication across the board. He plans to visit all the county public schools and increase social media presence through such tools as Twitter and Facebook to connect with students around the county so he can make their voices heard at board meetings.

Groenendyk said although he didn’t know any board members before his election, he has since met all of them and is excited for the upcoming school year.

“All the board members are great to work with,” Krehbiel said.

“It’s really up to him,” Hartings said, in reference to what Groenendyk wants to do with the position.

“The school board’s doing a good job already. I’m just happy to introduce my viewpoint,” Groenendyk said. “It’ll be interesting to see how it all works, too.”

Groenendyk, a pianist and euphonium player, was building on his love of music this summer by participating in a marketing internship with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, he said. He is interested in juxtaposing music and business in his career and would like to be an executive director of a symphony orchestra, he said.

Groenendyk said he plans to take three Advanced Placement classes in the coming school year and to apply to college. He is looking at going to a military academy — West Point is his first choice — but also is looking at the University of Maryland and a few Christian colleges, he said.

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