MANATEE -- Southeast High School student show Seminole Teen Talk Live sounds light, but students showed serious interest in school board issues Thursday, particularly those involving the budget.
Host and creator Mackenzie Yayura interviewed Manatee County School Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter and Superintendent Rick Mills about top school issues of the past month.
Producer Gillian Palino, a junior, said Teen Talk has aired about 10 episodes since Yayura started the show this year under the direction of production teacher Mike Sanders.
The show normally features student interviews on topics such as international baccalaureate versus advanced placement, balancing homework and stress, and technology's role in academics.
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The format allows audience members tuning in from around the community to submit questions via e-mail and Twitter.
Thursday's episode garnered questions from other Southeast High School students, parents in the community and even a fifth-grader from Willis Elementary.
Carpenter and Mills visited with the students to tell them on a personal level about issues facing the district.
"We need to be more fiscally alert," Carpenter said. "There is nothing criminal about stupidity, but we didn't have a comprehensive financial plan."
Concerns raised included the future of art and athletic departments, community investment in high- and low-performing students, and straightening out school finances.
Yayura also inquired about
a possible student advisory group for the school board, as well as the possibility of student school board members.
"We need student voices at the school board, policy-making level and in their own schools," Carpenter said.
She said it is unlikely, and maybe even against Florida statutes, for a student to be elected to the school board, she still wants to hear student voices.
Yayura is graduating next month, but with younger siblings in the public school system, she said she has concerns and fears she would like to see addressed.
"There is too much attention taken away from high-performing students," Yayura said. She said she would like to see a change in the community's perception about Southeast High School.
"I know I'm biased, but it's a great school, and I would like to see more community collaboration around it," Yayura said.
Yayura said she found Carpenter's and Mills' responses reassuring.
"Mills has an action plan, and he is ready to analyze and develop solutions," she said. "Carpenter supports students and student voices."
Carpenter and Mills said they enjoyed hearing the interests of students as stakeholders, and they both had broad smiles as they left the Seminole Teen Talk set.
Episodes of Seminole Teen Talk can be viewed at highschoolcube.com.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.