Print VersionStay Informed
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 – 2:30 p.m.
City Council Chambers

Present: Lisa Burger (UND), Julie Jeske (Altru Health System), Rich Becker (President of The Chamber), Chris Rood (GF Schools & The Answer), John Staley (GF Park District), John Packett (GF Police Department), Pete Haga (Mayor’s Office), Scott Holdman.

Mayor Brown welcomed everyone and did roll call.

Haga stated that various cabinet members had attended the student work groups for The Answer that meet at each Middle and High School, both in Grand Forks and at the Base. He continued that he had e-mailed a synopsis of the findings from those meetings to all cabinet members and would like to discuss this recap and that anyone with comments should feel free to add those.

The findings were as follows:

· Students thought that a youth commission was a good idea, as it gives an opportunity for young people to share their ideas with decision makers and between age groups of youth.
· The youth felt that it would only work if the commission “did” something, not just meet and discuss topics.
· There was agreement that the meetings should be monthly or bi-monthly, during the school day and in a place of importance, like Council Chambers. The Cabinet discussed that the School District would need to approve the time off from class and Rood felt that would not be a problem, since they do that already for the work groups. The group discussed the need to work on transportation for the students as well and Rood stated that she could check into a School District van and work out a pickup schedule to get all the students to the meeting.
· The students felt that a commission of 24 was an effective size and that it should be divided into 2 subgroups of 12 – one for middle school and one for high school. They further felt that each subgroup should meet individually as well as meeting together as a full cabinet. The Cabinet discussed that perhaps the subcommittees could meet first for a set amount of time and then join together as a full group to discuss the findings of each subcommittee. The Cabinet discussed that the suggested membership of 24 students would equate to 3 students from each middle school and 4 from each high school and that the representatives should be diverse in age, school and social background. Becker commented that at a Chamber committee earlier that day it had been discussed that the Grand Forks Schools was named as 14th out of 400 schools nationwide and that we should be aware of that and celebrate it in our community.
· The students expressed that elected officials, such as the Mayor should attend each meeting of the commission to show that it has value. The Cabinet discussed that perhaps some cabinet members should also be at each meeting. It was also suggested that maybe a UND representative could also attend each meeting to address issues from its youth population.
· The youth favored an organizational meeting at the beginning of the school year that was open to everyone, including parents of those interested in participating. They suggested that refreshments such as pizza and pop be offered at this meeting. The cabinet discussed various ways of publicizing this organizational meeting including: posters at the schools, putting a notice in the school newsletters, tent cards on lunch tables, invitation letters to recent dropouts, and personal invitations to some groups that are not likely to attend meetings like this. Holdman commented that he had a concern that this approach might be too broad and not really get a representative draw from all aspects of the student body. Rath suggested that Probation be contacted, as they could help us get the word to some of the youth that they work with who are typically the hard to reach population and would not normally see notices in school as they are no longer in school or if they are still there would not feel that it would be a place that really wants them to be involved. The Cabinet discussed various other ways that hard to reach youth could be encouraged to attend and participate, including having someone visit some of the areas of town that they tend to hang out like the skate park to invite them. The Cabinet discussed that at the organizational meeting needed to include a basic overview of what the commission would be and should give a sense to those in attendance of what the group might be working like so that students could determine if it was something they wanted to apply for.
· The youth had suggested that to be a member of the cabinet, students should submit an application and a blind essay. The cabinet discussed how the applications would be reviewed and ways to encourage the hard to reach to apply. It was noted that any essay should be reviewed without the name so that it could be independently rated, and that the theme should be left very simple, such as “Why do you want to be on the Commission?”. The group discussed whether this would be a good way to reach all the groups and if not how those not reached could still be heard by the commission. Selzler noted that at a couple of the work group meetings, students had suggested putting a suggestion box somewhere in the school for students to give information to their representatives and that then those could come forward to the full commission or the appropriate subcommittee and that maybe would seem to work like a smaller group within each school with a representative from that elected to the full commission. Rood added that perhaps the school district would allow the representatives a few minutes at the monthly assembly to update the full student body on the work of the commission.
· The youth stated that they want to make sure that each subgroup of the commission has a specific task and that if possible, get the word out about the commission before the end of school.

Becker commented that Rath works with a number of youth that fall into the hard to reach category and inquired whether he felt that the process as discussed would adequately give notice and invitation to those youth. Rath responded that he did not, but that there were a number of issues with that population, where for some they are more concerned with their day-to-day home life issues and dealing with that and to them things like a skate park or reduced movie tickets is not their main concern. Rood suggested that perhaps the membership needs to stay flexible for the commission and if see an obvious missing sector that then they could be invited to attend as a guest or added to the membership so that their view could get heard.

Rood stated that her answer work groups have expressed an interest in continuing to meet over the summer and that they will be meeting on June 8 at 3:00 p.m. at the Education Center and perhaps that would be a good place to get feedback on any plans that we have made today. Jeske also encouraged that an organizational meeting should be included in the school mailing that goes out to all households before the start of the year so that students and parents could be aware of the Commission. Packett suggested that the Cabinet also work over the summer with the staff at Juvenile and Probation to educate them on the goals of the commission so that they could be aware of it and ways that it could include their youth. Rood stated that those youth could also be invited to the June 8th meeting that the Answer work groups are having if we wanted to include them sooner.

Jeske suggested also using the Herald Teen Page as another way to get the word out to youth and their families. Rood suggested possibly inviting the reporter that works with that page to a Cabinet meeting and or the organizational meeting.

Haga asked the Cabinet to discuss the selection process once the organizational meeting has been held and applications are submitted. Jeske pointed out that most youth had thought an essay was appropriate. Selzler commented that a short application and essay shows that they are really interested and are willing to put in some work to be selected. Jeske suggested that perhaps an interview portion could also be added, as sometimes those with the best essays may not always end up being the ones that would be the best fit for the commission.

Haga stated that he had also e-mailed the group a sample mission statement and asked for their comment on it. Jeske inquired whether it would be appropriate to develop the Cabinet’s mission statement first. Rath stated that he felt their needs to be 2 separate mission statements, one for the Cabinet and then one for the Commission. Holdman added that maybe the Cabinet could provide them an outline of what we expect from them and then they could create their own. Rood noted that the sample statement included wording from America’s Promise and inquired whether we were planning to embrace those and if so there are some things already in place there. Haga responded that he just included them as a starting point. Rood added that there are some benchmarks that are already set that follow the America’s Promise and if we want to use that then maybe take a look at those benchmarks and see if we feel those will fit what we want to accomplish. Rath stated that from his experience, students want to hear the basic information and don’t want to be bogged down with lots of cumbersome some, and we should tell them what we want, when the meetings will be and let them go from there.

Haga recapped that the Cabinet would like to see an open organizational meeting just after the start of the school year with a target of being the third week in September. He continued that following the organizational meeting, interested students should complete an application, which will include an essay portion, which will be reviewed by a selection committee that will be selected at a later time. Rood stated that we could also check into whether the application could be put on Powerschool so that the students could access it easily if they are interested.

Silverman commented that she would then see us setting a goal for the commission, such as we need you to do three things that will work towards the overall mission statement that they develop. Rath countered that he would rather see us set the mission and then let them decide on the way to achieve it. Rood stated that going back to the 5 America’s Promise statements there are some measurables listed that could be helpful to us if we want to go the latter route.

Becker added that if the field could be narrowed to 3 or 4 things that could be achieved for sure in this first year it would seem to give the commission a momentum that could be built on to keep interest going for the next year. Selzler commented that maybe one of those could be lobbying for some discounts, such as for movie tickets, since many businesses buy tickets for their employees at a discount as well as UND students can buy at a discount. Haga added that this is something that he is hoping can be worked on over the summer months and will be working on this with Selzler.

Jeske brought up that the Cabinet also needs to discuss how the Commission will govern itself, will it have a chairperson, facilitator, etc. and that this needs to be worked out before the organizational meeting so that all this information can be given to those interested. Berger stated that she would see a facilitator and recorder as being helpful to the group as they begin their organizing. Haga responded that he was hoping to handle some of that with City staff and that he would be in attendance at each meeting of the commission and that Sherie Lundmark would serve as recorder for those meetings as well as the Cabinet meetings.

(Rath departed meeting.)

Holdman commented that the second year of the commission will probably be able to function more on the “doing” than the first year, as all the organizational bugs will need to be worked out the first year and that will take time that won’t need to be done in later years. He commented that through the essay and potential interview we get their creativity started and then need to work on setting some goals that they can use the creativity to achieve. Packett encouraged working towards specific things, as always hear there’s nothing to do and there is no answer to that. Holdman responded that perhaps we could pick a couple of topics for development and maybe use a guest speaker to help them develop those topics and train them on how to create a mission, so that this commission becomes a learning tool for them as well as a functioning experience.

Rood suggested seeing whether Taylor-Hienes would be available to come back and work with the commission, as she has training in this type of facilitation and planning.

(Staley joins meeting.)

Becker suggested coming up with some examples that could be use in the organizational meeting so that those attending could really get a sense for what we want to come out of the Commission. Haga responded that he would see the members of the commission maybe developing that and inquired whether the cabinet is asking if there would be a way to work on that at the organizational meeting. Glasshiem stated that he does not see a need for so much structure, but rather let the commission decide how much structure they need to get done what they choose to do. The group discussed that being able to work with the Commission to make sure that something is accomplished in the first year is important. Packett commented that the some type of instant gratification tends to build momentum. Holdman added that from the comments made by youth in the work groups, youth seem to want to accomplish something at each meeting, and if we can get it set up so that happens it will build momentum and keep interest in the commission going. He commented that some youth had commented on mentoring opportunities that this might generate between older and younger members of the cabinet and maybe if at one meeting we could have someone talk with them about what mentoring is so they learn new skills could be valuable.

Haga suggested that perhaps at the start of each commission meeting we spend a few minutes giving a recap of what’s happened so far and ask the members to give feedback on what they think so far and what changes need to be made, then move on to a task list and maybe one of the first meetings, have them develop a top 10 list of what they would like to see done. Rood expressed that she likes the idea of a top 10 list, and that could have each subgroup do one and then combine together and work on combing the two into one list and that this may bring out for discussion some of the priorities that may be different but similar between the two age groups on the commission. She continued that this might also lead to some good discussion of what hurdles need to be overcome to achieve some of those items and maybe could then include a speaker on overcoming.

Jeske brought up that there should be some type of staggered terms set up for the Commission so that it can be more fluid instead of potential for full turnover at end of each year. The Cabinet discussed that perhaps this could be included on the application as a box would you be interested in 1 year term or 2 year term.

Rood reported that the students in the work group were very pleased with the visits from the Cabinet members and stated that they very much enjoyed being asked for their opinion and being able to provide views. Selzler added that he was very surprised by the positive experience that he had in visiting Community High School and seeing what that facility provides to the youth how attend. He continued that they brought up some very unique obstacles that they sometimes have in being able to participate, such as daycare issues, and was very refreshing to be able to hear about these, because have a number of students that are not mainstream and need to be looking for ways to be inclusive of this segment of the youth population.

The Cabinet decided that their next meeting should be the Wednesday, June 14th at 3:00 p.m. and that at the meeting Rood will provide a report of the feedback from the June 8th meeting.

Meeting adjourned 4:30 p.m.

Sherie Lundmark
Administrative Specialist Senior