By Andrew Ballard
Exam distribution, passing time between classes and student bathroom conditions were the leading topics of discussion at the latest Student-Faculty Advi- sory Council meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Jan 19, soon after the group collected results from a student opinion survey. The counsel—consisting, in full, of sixteen students and twelve teacher representatives and headed by Mamaroneck High School Principal Elizabeth Clain—met in the library classroom to discuss possible courses of action in response to the sentiments manifest most in the survey’s results.
A total of 575 students (approximately 37 percent of the total number of students enrolled at MHS) completed and submitted the survey. Questions asked about students’ perceived safety at the high school and about how well the school supports students enrolled in rigorous courses. In addition, the survey also probed into the long-debated issue of newly implemented schedule changes, and looked into students’ willingness to contact teachers for help with course material.
A question regarding student satisfaction with MHS’s Joseph T. Downey Library was initially included on an early version of the survey, emailed to students on Jan. 5. It was removed later “at the 11th hour,” according to SFAC student representative Jimmy Quinn ’16.
The council reported that, of all the concerns expressed in the survey’s results, the most frequently mentioned stressor for students was poor exam distribution. While members of the SFAC discussed the ills of randomly overlapping testing dates in varied courses throughout the school year, there was more focus on the few weeks of expectedly high exam testing concentration, such as the end of marking periods, where survey responses called for even more spacing between tests.
There was talk between representatives of making mandated testing periods for end-of-quarter tests—similar but not identical to the mandated periods for midterm examinations. This, however, was not an official decision but rather a proposal. Any action that will be taken to affect change in that regard will be the responsibility of a subcommittee of the Council, which will be headed by Social Studies department chair and teacher representative Craig Goldberg.
The SFAC also reported that survey responses indicated students’ desire for a greater amount of time allotted for walking from one class to the next, in order to decrease the stress of navigating hallway traffic. When the council moved to discuss possible solutions, Clain interjected, saying, “I don’t think we should be touching the schedule.” However, after further conversation, the council agreed that any alterations to the current schedule would not affect class duration or the structure of class periods in the day, but would instead add several minutes onto the school day or subtract time from that allotted for the airing of MHS Info. Nevertheless, some teacher representatives maintained that an increase in time between class periods would not be effective in decreasing the number
of students arriving late to class. Policy changes will be the responsibility, again, of a subcommittee.
Both schedule and exam reforms reflect a growing focus on student stress levels by both student organizations and the school administration. In her report to the SFAC, Clain spoke about the formation of a new, separate organization (temporarily referred to as the social emotional committee) comprised of students, parents and teachers aiming to bring local relief to what some are seeing as an epidemic of stress and depression in secondary schools across the nation.
“We don’t know exactly where this is going,” the principal said to the council. However, she ex- plained that the new group would work independently from the SFAC and would focus purely on promoting a school environment that fosters mental health.
Lastly, from the Council’s survey results stemmed a more blunt call for improved conditions in stu- dent bathrooms, specifically those in the school’s Post wing, where there are no doors but rather open archways separating bathrooms from the hallways. Student com- plaints voiced both at the meeting and in the survey revolved around
the lack of soap in dispensers and other inconveniences experienced at times. The council was in almost unanimous agreement that improvements to the facilities were a reasonable appeal.
Clain told the council that she had included money for bathroom renovations in her principal’s budget for the past three years and that she planned on doing so again this year. She also commented on the lack of doors, saying, “I think it’s disgusting.”
Photo courtesy of Hannah Lachow