School Board Expands Student Voice

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Wednesday December 23, 2015

When community members attend a South Burlington school board meeting in person, or virtually through RETN, they have the opportunity to not only witness the discussion of school related topics from the perspective of board members, but they also have the chance to hear from two high school students. At each meeting, time is built into the agenda for the board’s student representatives to give a report on school happenings. A new junior representative is elected each fall by the student council after being nominated by his/her peers. This year, Nirali Desai joined senior Neerja Patel at the regularly scheduled Wednesday evening meetings to offer her perspective on school matters.

Recently, school board members broached the topic of how the student voice could play a more significant role in the meetings, aside from making announcements and occasionally offering perspective on issues. In November, the board considered the idea of developing a subcommittee to better define the role of the student rep, and Desai agreed this would be a good first step. Desai also suggested collaborating with area school districts’ student representatives and transitioning to opening the application process for the student representative seat to the entire junior class, not simply the student council. Julie Beatty and Elizabeth Fitzgerald volunteered to be on the subcommittee and the three set to work.

On December 16, the committee offered their first update. The committee discussed a number of areas that could be improved, including training for the new representative. Desai noted that she had no idea what she was getting into when she was elected and it would have been helpful to have some tools to navigate the often complex subject matter the board tackles. Roberts rules of order and policy governance were noted as a solid base for training.

The volunteer position will now be opened to the entire junior class and applicants will be encouraged to state their interest at the end of their sophomore year. A selection committee for this individual could also be in the works with the possibility of community member and school board representation. The committee is hoping to have a high school administrator help them organize the process.

The student voice has always been of paramount importance to the board and in coming years students will have the opportunity to provide even more valuable feedback.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent