Students want say in policy

Clovis High sophomores Austin Graham, back left, Cydney Thurma and Dustyn Cole are upset about a change from 90-minute classes under the block schedule to 55-minute classes. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

An administration decision to bury the current class schedule at Clovis High School has left some students complaining their voices do not matter.

“I feel like if I am going to be attending this school, I need to have a say in its future. I feel like we didn’t have a say,” said Austin Graham, a sophomore student council member.

Effective next school year, the block schedule — which includes 90-minute classes — now in place at the high school will be replaced by a traditional schedule of six, 55-minute classes.

Current sophomores and juniors also must adjust to a semester-free year, where the same classes are attended year round.

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm ordered the change based on indications that academic performance has flatlined and in some instances plummeted since the block schedule was implemented about five years ago.

She said she’s aware that many students and teachers are unhappy with the changes. And she said she’s heard their voices and considered their opinions. But she said she believes the current system is not working, which is the reason for change.

College-bound sophomore Dustyn Cole said the change will push his grade-point average down, since there will be less class time to study. His friend Graham said it will hamper his ability to adapt to a university learning environment.

Cole, Graham and another friend were so upset by the schedule change, they brainstormed a plan to voice their opposition.

Sending word through hallway whispers and covert cell phone text messages, the trio drummed up support for a school-wide sit-in, slated to occur Wednesday morning in the gymnasium or on the football field.
But when administrators discovered the plan — 400 participants strong, according to Cole and Graham — it unraveled. Cole and Graham said the principal threatened police arrest of participants, and the students canceled the event.

Principal Jody Balch denied making any such threat. He said he did tell students via intercom that they would incur school discipline if they participated in the event.

He said protests should not occur during school hours. “They (students) ought to be learning something,” he said.

Cole said the incident has taught him something.

“It’s taught me that students do not have the rights everyone else does. Anywhere else you could have your word heard, but in a school setting you can’t. To me, that’s not teaching us about the world,” he said.
For the maximum safety of students, Seidenwurm said protests on school grounds should be squelched, but she said she did give students a chance to voice opinions over the change through their school counselors. Furthermore, she said, a protest would not have swayed her choice to bury the block schedule.

“That would be a disservice to kids,” Seidenwurm said.