Wednesday, April 23, 2014

School board considers student member

Youth representative would serve in non-voting capacity

Express Staff Writer

Elizabeth Schwerdtle

    The Blaine County School District board of trustees seems favorable to the idea of adding a non-voting student representative to the board.
    “I think it would be great to have a student member,” Trustee Kathryn Graves said at a Thursday, April 17, school board meeting.
    The idea of a student board representative, who would serve in an advisory capacity, was put forward at the meeting by Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle, who said that adding a student representative would provide “meaningful student involvement” and is consistent with the district’s strategic plan, which states that students should be engaged in the education process.
    In addition to providing a student perspective to board decisions, Schwerdtle said that service on the board would be beneficial to the students, by helping them with governance, public speaking, critical thinking and citizenship skills.
    Schwerdtle pointed out that a student board representative is not a new idea, noting that “hundreds of districts have students serving in some capacity on school boards.” While Idaho law would not preclude students voting in board decisions, Schwerdtle said that some states, such as Maryland, approved legislation as early as 1975 giving student representatives full voting rights.
    Board Chairman Shawn Bennion, who also seemed favorable to the idea, said the board could likely find templates for student involvement on the board and would not have to “reinvent the wheel.”
    Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch, who also works as a paraprofessional at Wood River High School and serves as an advisor the school’s student union, said the issue has been discussed with students and they are enthusiastic about the concept. He said he will work with the student union to develop a framework that also includes participation by Silver Creek High School and high school students at Carey School.
    Schwerdtle said recommendations regarding the proposal will be prepared and brought to the school board at its regular meeting in May. If approved, the student representative would likely be on the board by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
    Interim Superintendent John Blackman said he favors the idea of because students could be an asset in the decision-making process.
    “I think about the number of students we have in the district and what an unused resource they are,” Blackman said.

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