By: Melissa Romberg
The John Zehr Administration
On November 1, I sat down with Student Body President John Zehr to discuss what the Conard Student Council does and what the position of President entails.
M: How do you like being President so far?
J: It’s a lot of fun! And it’s a huge responsibility. It’s pretty stressful, because you’re juggling a lot of pieces. You’re coordinating with Student Council, taking the ideas that come out of Student Council and coordinating those with [the Conard] administration to make sure that everything can be implemented successfully, and making sure that we have the resources to get it done. I joke that it’s a lot of emailing back and forth between, “Hey, guys [Student Council], if you have any ideas for activities for the pep rally or other events we can do...” And then it’s emailing back to the administration saying, “Hey, can we get on this? Will this work?” and working out a time to meet with people to discuss it further. I’m working with some great people — (Vice President) Julian’s terrific, Will and George have been helping out a lot, Connor, and Sam, and Aarya. Everybody’s great.
M: So how often do you meet with Administration?
J: It’s really impromptu, so I’d say I meet with people 5 or 6 times a week. And it’s not just administration. I meet with Ms. Casey and other teachers to make sure that everything’s okay. Student Council meets about once every week or so. And then through that, it’s a lot of me talking with Ms. Casey just in passing, talking with Mr. Duarte occasionally. That’s about it, it’s pretty much done internally; it’s a lot of just email stuff, it’s not sit down. The meeting stuff is more with teachers and just seeing if they’re on board with participating in various things and stuff like that.
M: When [Student Council] has an idea, you guys approach the administration, but are there things that the administration wants you guys to do for them? Are there things that they’ll ask you to do for the school like…
J: Last year after I got elected, Mr. Condon expressed that he really wanted better recognition for Veterans Day, which I was totally on board with. I worked with him to plan what we could do. I sat down and talked with Mrs. Blitzer, who is the [Social Studies] department head, and bounced ideas off her to see how we can recognize Veterans Day. The three of us came up with the idea for trying to get an additional panel discussion with veterans. I’m also a member of Red Zone Video Announcement Club (RZVAC), so Mr. Condon suggested that we coordinate a video where we could have veterans speak about what motivated them to join [the Armed Forces] and what Veterans Day means to them. In that instance, someone came to us, and we worked with them to figure out a solution. But the two big things we’re working on right now are the pep rally and Homecoming. Those are traditionally two big winter/fall Student Council projects. So no one really came to us with those, we just realized we had to tackle them.
M: With RZVAC, you are on a lot of their videos and everyone sees you on there, but do you think freshman or students who weren’t at Conard last year know that you’re Student Body President? Or how do you think they know?
J: That’s a good question, and I’m actually not so sure about that. I’m sure a good number of people know that I’m president. I think I just sent out the email looking for people to participate in the tug of war at the pep rally, and I mentioned Student Council is looking for people. Something that RZVAC is currently working on is Gracie is going to sit down and talk to me about Homecoming, because that’s our big project, and I think that will help people who do not know I’m president. Certainly a side goal of Student Council is to get more engagement, to hear more voices from people. One of the things that we’re thinking about and now that college application season is over, I think what we’re going to get done is to have a suggestion box. Or since I’m free 4th period every day, and Julian has a few free periods throughout the week, we’re going to see if there’s a good period where we can both sit down in the cafeteria and if anybody has any ideas, they can just come right up to us. Engagement with the underclassmen is a goal of ours.
M: When it comes to the pep rallies, is Student Council going for a more traditional route for the activities or are you adding and incorporating new things into the pep rally?
J: Every year, Student Council puts its own spin on it. Some things we’re really excited about doing this year, specifically the senior sport recognition, the Red C does their thing. This year, we also talked with Mr. Porter about having the jazz band play as people come in, which I think is kind of cool. We’re doing pie in the face with teachers again this year, the cheerleaders are doing a routine, and we’re doing an administration vs. students dodgeball game. I’m sure we pull a lot from older things, but we just put our own spin on it. I’m not going to say it’s original, but it’s different, and we’re trying to make it so it’s not the exact same thing as last year.
M: In relation to problems at Conard that happen almost every day, what is Student Council doing to tackle the vaping problem at our school?
J: Honestly, absolutely nothing. That problem is being dealt with by members of the Safe School Climate Committee, which I also participate in. If you’ve seen the posters around school, those posters came out of that organization. I think a secondary goal of that group is to get a speaker to come. Chris Herren came our freshmen year and spoke about drug usage. I think it would be a little bit harder to have a speaker come and talk about vaping since it’s such a new thing. But that was just one of the secondary goals of that group. The combating the vaping problem, or the trash outside the cafeteria from when people leave their stuff, that’s really done through the Safe School Climate Committee. Student Council is really focused more on student events.
M: After Homecoming and the pep rally, what is Student Council going to be focusing on?
J: We do the Valentine’s Day roses, and I believe the Penguin Plunge is going on sometime in February. Another thing we want to do is to host some sports tournaments in the spring. Will and George had this idea, and we loved it, which is to have a spikeball tournament this spring. One of the things I need to get on, that I had met with Ms. Fallis, the art teacher, Mr. Duarte, and Ms. Barry, about is getting an art wall near the cafeteria. Every quarter, students can submit propositions or drawings, which would be voted on by the student body. Whichever design the students like the best would be painted in the cafeteria by the student who submitted it. I thought that would be a cool idea. A lot of our members are very active, very engaged, and I’m sure they have all sorts of ideas for stuff that they want to do later in the year.
M: Do you have any regrets when it comes to things this year that Student Council can’t solve? Or is there anything you want to solve but you can’t?
J: One of the things that I talked with Mr. Marcoux about is to have a place for upperclassmen to go. The problem with the library is that you have to be quiet, and you have to get work done. And the problem with the cafeteria is that you can’t get any work done. So we were trying to look for some middle ground, some kind of SRP, Senior-Junior/Upperclassmen lounge, that would be like a recreation room. And it’s not like people are throwing food and throwing a party in there, but it’s a place where you can be loud, you can talk with friends. Other schools have it where they have TVs, they have games, ping pong, and stuff like that. Just sort of like a break room, like a rec center where kids who deserve to have access to that privilege can go. There’s not the strict regulations of the library, or a total free-for-all like the cafeteria. Like a student lounge type of thing. Obviously you run into problems like where would that be, where would we get the money to purchase that, and a whole host of other things. But I think that’s something I’d really like to do through Student Council. We’d have to see what the year brings after the pep rally and Homecoming are taken care of.
M: Can you just talk about when all of these events are happening or anything else you’d like to say?
J: Sure. I mean Homecoming is on November 23, and I’m sure if you’ve seen the posters up, you know that you can start buying tickets November 4. We’ve got some fun activities planned for the pep rally. Please sign up for tug of war, we need like 60 more people. We’ve got some other fun activities planned, and you know, I think it’s going great. I think we’re headed towards a fun year.
M: When is the pep rally? Just for clarification.
J: Oh sure, yeah, the pep rally is on November 22. We’re trying to get it to go an extra five minutes, because we’ve got a ton of activities planned, and it would be nice to have a little bit more time so that we’re not rushing from event to event. Timing is tight.
M: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
J: I mean, I think I covered it all. I’m really enjoying my time as president; I’d love to hear more of your guys’ ideas. Seriously, if you have anything you want to suggest, even if you think of it at 2 a.m. at night, “Oh I think x, y, z would be a great idea for Conard,” send me an email. I love hearing stuff like that; I’m all for suggestions. Come to Student Council; meetings are usually in room 162, Fridays. We’re always looking for new voices, new opinions, anything on stuff. If there’s anything you guys want, just let me know. Sign up for tug of war please, we really need people to do that. If you have any other ideas, you don’t need to be in Student Council; please send them to me. Again, Homecoming is on the 23 at 7:30 pm. I hope to see you all there. It’s at the West Hartford Town Hall, and it’ll be a lot of fun, we’ve got some cool decorations. There is no theme this year, but I’d recommend wearing Conard colors.
M: Alright, cool! Thank you, John!
J: Thank you!
If you want to get in contact with John Zehr, his school email is firstname.lastname@example.org