Horizon Student Improvement Team members, clockwise from right, sixth grader Naomi Sanders, eighth grader Derek Zell, sixth grader Alex Bellin, eleventh grader Nikki Walsh, 5-6 teacher Elizabeth Robertson, Elementary Principal Laura Wanstreet, Parent Partnership Director Mona Volden, parent Karen Hyatt, Horizon Executive Director Betsy Fera, parent Kelly McGuire and parent Puja Agarwal pose for a photo at Horizon Community Learning Center on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Nearly every month, a group of about 15 students, parents and staff members gather as the Student Improvement Team (S.I.T.) for Horizon Community Learning Center in Ahwatukee, a group that mingles together voices to implement change.

“It’s a great opportunity to get involved in the school and work on the same common goals and vision,” said parent Carol Wilson, who has been on the team for two years. “It’s neat because staff really gets an opinion of what parents think.”

The team works to research and plan out ideas to improve the school and advises staff and the governing board.

Focusing on one main theme or focus each year, the team is in the early stages of planning a school-wide, community outreach event to help homeless kids or those in crisis situations next year.

“I think it’s nice to know that Horizon gives the students a voice in what they’re doing with the school,” said member and sixth-grader Alex Bellin, who also leads on student council.

Every fall, names are drawn in a lottery style for who can be a voting member of the team, though any other interested parents, staff or students can input ideas. The team has been part of the public charter school since its doors were opened in Ahwatukee in 1999.

The school’s executive director, Betsy Fera, said the team is much different than a typical parent/teacher organization in a way that is more driven in shared decision making.

“It’s great, and it gives them a sounding board because you get the kids’ perspectives, parents’ perspectives, and you get a great input that helps me make decisions,” Fera said.

The team currently includes two teachers or staff, four parents, four students and about four alternate members.

In the past, the team has been able to improve the school’s website, organize events and raise funds, as well as helped in how to prepare students for the implementation of the Common Core standards.

“It’s not just me as a parent complimenting or complaining, it’s about all of us working together,” added Wilson. “I want the school to be a great place for kids to learn.”

Applications for the team are accepted at the beginning of every school year. The next regular meeting is open to community and will be hosted at Horizon, 16233 S. 48th St., at 1 p.m. on Feb. 25.

For more information, call Horizon at (480) 659-3000.

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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