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East Syracuse: ES-M students voice ideas for district's future

Teenagers talk. People are listening. Monday morning, faculty from the East Syracuse-Minoa School District was all ears.

About 60 students gathered at the East Area Family YMCA to discuss the future of their schools. The informal setting -- named Community Caf (c) -- divided kids into small groups to encourage conversation and an exchange of ideas based on a platform of school-related questions.

Typically, the district encourages input from the adult population. This is the first time the school district involved kids to aid in district planning. The age mix was comprised of students in eighth grade through seniors in high school.

"This is the first student input Community Caf (c)," said Dr. Donna DeSiato, superintendent of schools. "It's part of our overall strategic planning process. The Community Caf (c) involves engaging our community, and part of our community is certainly our students."

The idea is to gather data from both students and adults in a setting conducive to brainstorming. The information is then collected and used in the strategic planning process. The plan will ultimately serve as a blueprint for the next several years to include a set of beliefs, a mission, a vision, and goals and activities necessary to fulfill the mission.

So with what types of questions are the students being challenged?

"What do we currently do in school that we need to continue to do? What are we doing that we can actually stop doing? What do we need to do that we're not doing?" DeSiato said.

Tenth grader Christian Larrabee touched on a few topics already discussed in his group.

"We were talking about stress management," he said. "More kids need to be open. We have a lot of things. We're always busy multi-tasking. We want to have ways to manage that."

Talk among the peers led to more concepts like updating teachers on ever-changing technology, and becoming more "globally awake." Larrabee said students also require the need to learn real life skills for a successful transition after high school.

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