Committee Minutes

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 – 3:00 p.m.
Council Chambers

Present: Lisa Berger, Pat Burger, John Staley, John Packett, Ron Gruwell, Jamie Selzler, Pete Haga, Julie Jeske, Mayor Brown (joins meeting in progress).

I. Welcome and Introductions.

Haga welcomed everyone and apologized that he would be leaving the meeting shortly, as he was due to fly out this afternoon, but that the Mayor was on his way and that wanted to go ahead and begin discussion. He stated that the main purpose of the meeting today was to discuss the plan for the commission and in particular the logistics of getting the word out and getting the students to the meeting from the school and have Ron Gruwell of the Grand Forks Public Schools present to assist with information on these issues.

II. Youth Commission Update

Gruwell stated that he and Haga had visited yesterday and they determined that there are two necessities that must be accomplished before the project can move ahead and that those are first to get the principals of each building on board with the idea and that a good way to accomplish this would be to have a representative from the cabinet come to the next principals meeting and inform them of the plans for the commission. Second, there needs to be a way to articulate the message to students so that they want to become involved with the group. He added that it is difficult to get students to commit to something if all they do is come together and meet and that you need to convince them that there is a need and it is something that they can get accomplished.

Gruwell continued that it will be important to also get a voice from those not in school and realizes that the cabinet has discussed this and realizes that it is a valuable component. He continued that to get students out of school during the day is tricky, will require parent permission and that they recommend not always the same time and day of the week, because then students always miss the same class or activity and could lead to some not being involved that would like to and would be better to rotate the meeting and that may lead to better participation. Burger inquired whether a supper meeting with a meal provided could work better. Gruwell stated that if you go after school hours run into athletic, other activity and work conflicts, so while they will come if you feed them, but realize that any athletes would probably not be available then and that there is no right time, but a 2-3 hour block of time is tough to get people together. He continued that the group had talked about a total of 2 hours meeting time, but with drive time you are really looking at about 3 hours, or more if coming from the base, and that would be a half a day out of school and could be challenge for some students. Jeske inquired about breakfast time for meetings. Gruwell stated that he would say to select the students, then work out the meeting time/day with those involved. He continued that there is an added burden in that with senior high some drive, but not all and in middle school there is no option for driving so need to rely on parents to transport them to the meeting site. Burger stated that the cabinet had discussed perhaps busing the students to help with the transportation. Gruwell commented that parents shouldn’t have a problem with whatever transportation is decided on as long as they understand the purpose and will be willing to help the students get there, but again Twining could be the biggest challenge.

Pakcett inquired whether there was an existing group that is set up that the cabinet could work through to accomplish it’s mission without having to reinvent the wheel. Gruwell stated that the Answer groups took years to get to where they are now with interest and participation and that are good group to work with and that tried getting a Youth Commission once before, but couldn’t get it to take off and since Answer has some tenets in common perhaps could be a starting place. Packett responded that he was impressed with the way the Answer groups worked when the cabinet members visited them last spring and maybe explore working with that existing group. Gruwell stated that one of the key pieces that would be missing in the Answer group would be the goal of getting students to communicate directly with Community Leaders and that maybe could find a way to work that in.

Burger commented that with the other changes that have been taking place with the Answer administratively that perhaps this is a good time to look at making these other changes to the groups, whether the Answer groups become the Commission, or the Commission becomes the Answer groups. Selzler inquired what other changes would need to be made to allow the Answer groups to really affect change in the Community. Burger stated that she thinks already they are accomplishing something, as are seeing the problem numbers decreasing. Selzler inquired whether the Answer has the ability to be expanded to include other avenues and those outside the school system. Burger stated that perhaps in the end the Answer groups become one component of the Commission, that part dealing with substance use.

(Mayor Brown arrives.)

Gruwell stated that the group is at a point where they need to decide how they want to proceed and either way the first step is to get the principal’s on board and then need to work on defining to the youth why their involvement is needed. Mayor Brown commented that getting them together with City leaders could lead to some valuable exchange of information, much like the joint meeting held with the subcommittee of the UND Student Senate did in addressing the need for evening transportation to the downtown area. Gruwell stated that since the access to community leaders has never been a part of the Answer in the past it might be the hook that we need to get some youth involved in the program that haven’t in the past. Burger inquired what the City Council wishes to get out of the Commission. Mayor Brown responded that they are tasked with protect, serve and encourage healthy behaviors and if youth can provide ideas for ways to make the community better for them will also make it better for us and that any resources that the Mayor’s office has are available to the Commission. The group inquired of Packett as to whether juvenile delinquency has been increasing. Packett responded that it is way up. Gruwell explained that the school district is awaiting a report back from work that they did with the police department on gridding where and when problems have occurred in the community and once take a look at that can help determine if there are areas of the community that may have a specific need for program or work during certain periods of peak problems. He continued that there is also a survey done on an alternating basis with a state survey on risk and should have those results back soon and hope that they continue to show a decline in risky behavior.

Packett said it was very enlightening to meet with the groups and sharing information. He added that they had a similar meeting with part of the UND Student Senate last week and it was good to hear the concerns of the students and also to be able to share with them our information that they are not very different from the regular population in relation to things like police calls. Gruwell stated that middle school and high school students would also enjoy a similar dialogue and thinks it would be interesting and valuable to them. Packett stated that he was very impressed with the youth at community high and the good discussion that occurred when he visited them and wants to make sure that they do not get missed as we move forward. Gruwell stated that they are one of the most active Answer groups. Burger contributed that they are also very creative. Selzler commented that he was struck that there were only 3 students in attendance at the meeting at Red River, but there were 10 students that attended at Community. Gruwell added that is typical and with student population of approximately 1200 at Red River and only 80 at Community High you would think it would be the opposite. Packett added that he also found the staff to be very motivated at community and asked whether they volunteer to teach there or if they are selected. Gruwell responded that there is a selection process and they are very careful to place the right staff at that school and that there is never a problem with applicants for those spots.

(Brown departs meeting.)

Burger inquired how the drop out numbers were for the school district. Gruwell responded that last year there were only 13 and 11 the year before and that this is the lowest rate that we have ever seen. He continued that there are lots of students that struggle, but they have implemented an at-risk program. He added that youth in the schools today are very interesting and well behaved and that they have no expulsions last year and more students in advanced classes and scoring highest in the state on ND testing. He stated that it is always important to listen to the students, in particular those that may have struggles.

Burger asked what the group felt its’ long range goals should be. Selzler replied that he thought we had decided to get the kids together and then let them set their goals and then we’d work on ours. Berger read from the draft goals what had been discussed a few months ago. Selzler stated that the students had all expressed that it was important to meet in this room for their meetings and maybe see who shows up and then look at finalizing them. Packett stated that we need to make sure that the meeting remains meaningful and manageable and that we need energy maintained. He added that we also have to make sure that we have others involved besides just community leaders so that if the leaders are unable to be at the meeting the others can keep the energy going and fill in the gaps.

Burger inquired whether the Park District visits with youth at all. Staley stated that they do not directly. He continued that they do use post-program surveys and interact with a few organized groups to get ideas.

Packett commented that the Mayor is flexible, and ready to bring his clout to the direction that we decide to go. The group discussed that a small subcommittee including Burger, Packett, Gruwell and a couple of others should meet with Haga when he is back in the office and brief on the ideas discussed today and how to work The Answer into the Commission.

III. Other

There were no other items.

IV. Next Meeting Date

E-mail notification will be sent out prior to the meeting.

V. Adjournment.

Meeting adjourned at 3:55 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Sherie Lundmark
Admin Spec Sr