For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
BISMARCK, N.D., April 2, 2019 – Gracie Johnsrud, a Watford City High School senior and member of state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler’s Student Cabinet, will be a featured speaker at a national forum about how students can play a role in education policy.
Johnsrud and Baesler are participating in an April 8 panel discussion at a legislative conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers, an organization that represents state education agencies.
They will be speaking to an audience of top state education officials and executive and philanthropic leaders. Baesler is a member of the CCSSO’s board of directors.
Education leaders in other states are curious about how the North Dakota Student Cabinet operates, Baesler said. "They’re very intrigued about the idea of students becoming a meaningful part of the creation of policy and decisions, rather than being just an advisory group that meets sometimes," she said.
Baesler formed the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet in April 2015. Its members serve for 18 months, and some have been appointed to second terms. Its members are chosen from the fourth grade through the first year of college. The Cabinet’s size has ranged from 18 to 20 members.
The group meets every three months to offer Baesler their advice and opinions about state education policy. The students decide which speakers they would like to hear, and which issues to focus upon.
"They’re able to give to me the perspective of the people that I serve every day," Baesler said of the students. "Without their insight, without their ability to communicate with me what it is that they need and they want, we as adults would only be guessing."
Past suggestions from Cabinet members have supported a number of North Dakota education policy changes, including support for school safety measures and greater availability of advanced coursework in schools. Members of the present Cabinet have focused on updating North Dakota’s anti-bullying law and deliberating about ways to prevent teen suicide.
"More and more attention has been paid to the importance of student voice, and North Dakota’s Student Cabinet has been gaining national recognition about the way that we go about including that student voice within our policy creation," Baesler said.
A CCSSO description of the April 8 panel discussion says the North Dakota Superintendent’s Student Cabinet is considered a national exemplar of how to "systematically partner with students as stakeholders in the process to improve conditions for learning."
"The voices and perspectives of students are critical to conversations on everything in education from school improvement to school climate," the description says.