Every year is an election year at the Pine Strawberry School. Each spring, after a week of campaigning and speeches, students elect a new council.
Speeches must be approved. "They can't promise to change recess," said student council adviser Jan Clark, "but they can promise to listen and bring the ideas before the council."
Huge ideas would then go to Principal (and Clark's husband) Mike Clark, "and if there's something really earthshaking, then we bring it to the governing board," Clark said. That hasn't happened.
On Thursday, student council pondered ideas for the party they have decided to throw for kindergartners through second-graders. Duck duck goose, water gun fights and dress-up games were among those ideas iterated.
Clark said last year's party featured various stations, each with a different event. Kids develop the plan, get it approved and then run the stations. A similar design is under way for this year's party.
"It's a student government to develop their leadership skills. It's not always your top academics, but they have to have Cs or better," Clark said.
And the perks include leaving school early to set up dances, the responsibility of making decisions, and feeling special.
"We get to do stuff other kids don't," said seventh-grader Laynie Brogdon. And without contentious topics requiring delicate negotiations, student council gets to enjoy the perks minus the heartache.
"It's all pretty much going the way it should," Brogdon said.
Student council abides by parliamentary procedure, which is the same procedure most government and business organizations use. Clark said the methods streamline meetings and ensure fairness.
Meetings even adjourn if council lacks a quorum.
They learn important life lessons like remembering to pay the bills and just because you want it, doesn't mean you'll get it.
"They come up with ideas and sometimes we can't do them," Clark said.
Student council's treasurer works with the school's business manager, and the council has to pay their annual dues of $100 to stay members of the state's junior high school student council, through which councilors attend an annual convention.
Council raises money through various fund-raisers, including events like selling valentines on Valentine's Day or Christmas cards on Christmas.
"We have $500," Clark said. "We have to decide, how do we want to spend it."
The kids, she added, are fiscal conservatives. The next lesson: you have to spend money to make money.
"They don't want to spend the money," Clark said. Students examine other options. Can they make things to sell instead of buy?
Though contract negotiations are likely not part of the papers student council members must sign, the rules mandate members to complete one community service project per quarter. The contract binds students to the realization that they are held to higher standards than their peers, Clark said.
Though students in grades fourth through eighth are eligible for council, officers must be at least seventh-graders.
Usually, Clark said, about two students run per office. The ones not elected typically enter council as senators. Younger students serve as representatives. One of the offices, beyond the obligatory president and vice president, includes an historian, who takes pictures and creates a scrapbook.
At this year's student council convention, held in May, students will enter their scrapbook in the scrapbook competition, along with the school flag and secretary/treasurer's book competitions.
"I want them to be totally confident," Clark said. "It's a really fun time."