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Election campaign overtakes SCC High School

When high school civics teacher Chris Buckel approached the St. Croix Central School Board about running for a seat in the State Assembly during the 2009 election, he said his experiences would benefit his students, even if he didn't win.

This past month his words have proven true through a pilot project.

Two St. Croix Central seniors, Abby Delander and Zack Gillis, are running for election to the newly formed position of a principal liaison. The election is under the supervision of Buckel.

Seniors are required to take a civics class with Buckel. The two sections this semester each nominated one person from their class to run for the position.

Although the two candidates are taking the spotlight, all students in the classes play a role in the election. Students had to create an awareness and persuasion plan and a "get out the vote" plan, Buckel said.

Additionally, students are performing a voter analysis to determine which of the students in the 9-12 student body are most likely to vote for their candidate, and who the swing voters will be. Students have developed strategies to earn voters for their candidates. Two weeks before the Dec. 4 election, Buckel said voting may be done in an electoral college fashion -- the majority winner for each silent reading room wins a vote.

Civics students have performed an issue analysis and decided what platforms their candidates will take. The issues at stake are largely related to school activities and policies -- like the rule that students have to be in a fall sport to be Homecoming candidates.

A debate between the two candidates was televised during silent reading time, bringing the issues to the foreground. Students also ran two ads, one a positive ad about their campaign and the other a negative ad about their competitor.

Negative ads are a realistic facet of running for public office, which is why students created them, Buckel said. The ads didn't attack the other person personally, but rather his or her position on the issues, he added.

In the weeks leading up to the election, signs pitching the candidates' slogans covered the high school walls.

There was an energy and excitement about the election, Buckel said.

"I've been very, very pleased," he said. Students have a new motivation for the class, some even getting to school early or staying late to work on the campaign, he said.

High school Principal Glenn Webb said he agreed to the pilot project to see how the students would get involved in learning about the election process.

"Also, it will be interesting to have a student liaison position for generating ideas that are important to the student body," Webb said. This is the first time there has been a position like this at St. Croix Central to Webb's knowledge, he added.

Buckel said he hopes that if this year's pilot project goes well, the position could possibly turn into a student representative on the school board.

School board President Howard Kruschke said the board hasn't formally discussed adding a student position yet, but may in the future.

To his knowledge, there hasn't been a student representative position on the board in the past, Kruschke said.