Ahh, school! The place where society’s youth is sent to be molded to become future leaders.
But in school, there are so many rules and restrictions, such as dress codes, open or closed campuses and school safety. And who is in charge of these rules and regulations? The school’s superintendent, mainly. So if a high school kid was given a chance to speak with one, what questions would be asked?
On Feb. 27, the Unleashed correspondents were given the opportunity to ask questions of a panel that consisted of two superintendents: Elaine Beraza of the Yakima School District and Shane Backlund of the Selah School District.
The students, who invited the panel to join them during a regularly scheduled Unleashed meeting at the Yakima Herald-Republic, prepared questions in advance. Beraza and Backlund responded to questions on topics such as safety from guns in schools, and their views on open or closed campuses. Although the answers between the two superintendents varied, neither hesitated to share their personal and professional beliefs.
At the beginning of the meeting, the first few questions had to do with the superintendents’ job descriptions, and particularly what were the most difficult aspects of the job. The two superintendents had similar responses, yet they were very personalized.
“The hardest part isn’t always the same every day,” said Beraza, who noted there isn’t any specific task or duty that makes a superintendent’s job difficult, especially since anything can happen at any time
Backlund agreed, saying situations change and new conflicts arise every day. He added the most difficult part of the job deals with communicating and collaboratively working with teachers, but he said he loves working with students the most.
The superintendents agreed that their main task is to be the instructional leader of their district, and to make sure their schools provide the highest learning opportunities possible.
Many students feel a need to address the issue of open or closed campuses. Selah High School has a closed campus. However, high schools in Yakima have open campuses. Beraza noted that due to the number of students in their schools and the limited number of lunch space available at Davis and Eisenhower, this is the only way possible for all of the students to eat.
After answering questions for just over an hour, the superintendents concluded with some advice. On the topic of college and careers, both relayed the message to pursue something students love to do, and to pursue their passions. They added, students should consider whether their chosen career path will earn them enough to live on.
But students should keep all doors open, because many people might end up doing something they didn’t plan on doing. Beraza said this generation of students will go through seven career changes in their lives.
The Unleashed students felt the meeting went rather well. This panel provided a forum for students to ask a number of questions about school, which is beneficial because students often feel their voices are rarely heard.
• Tristan Vijarro is a senior at Toppenish High School and a member of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.
• Unleashed members Audrey Navarro and Ryan Miller contributed to this story.