Hartford Students To Be Appointed To School Board?
City Council To Vote On Ordinance Monday
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
March 23, 2012
HARTFORD —— The city board of education may expand to include two high school students who would be appointed as non-voting members.
The city charter already allows the council to create up to two student seats on the board, and since 1999, a board policy has called for student representatives who would participate in public meetings.
But to date, no student has served on the school board. Few teenagers attend board meetings. On Monday, the city council is expected to adopt an ordinance that formally establishes the mayoral appointments.
The one-year terms are expected to start next school year.
Mayor Pedro Segarra said it would be "good to have student input" and believed the experience could help develop students into leaders. The proposal also has received unanimous support from the council's education committee.
Councilman David MacDonald, the committee's chairman who until recently was head of the school board, said he had been discussing the prospect of student representatives with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto "for a while."
"I felt for a long time it was important we got the student voice brought into our discussions," MacDonald said. "So much of the time that we're there, we seem to be talking about adults and adult issues."
In December, the board revised its policy to require a student council at each high school. Student bodies are also expected to elect two students to represent their school on a new, districtwide Student Senate that would occasionally meet with Kishimoto to discuss issues. Senate members would then recommend two students to sit on the school board, possibly in the fall.
MacDonald has expressed a preference for the board representatives to be Hartford residents, although Segarra would have the final say on who is appointed.
Kishimoto said she has spoken with principals, both at the elementary and secondary level, "who are all in support of this and very excited about having students involved with policy decision-making."
So far, the Student Senate has not been formed. For various reasons, not all schools have an active student council, including Hartford Public High's Law and Government Academy. School officials are trying to set up a districtwide election process.
The revised board policy makes clear that student representatives would receive training before serving on the board, which is also expected of any new member. The students wouldn't be allowed to attend executive sessions, in which personnel and legal matters are discussed, but can be appointed to board committees.
Among the towns that have at least one student member on their school boards are West Hartford, Wethersfield, New Britain, Enfield, Avon and Simsbury. In West Hartford, Mayor Scott Slifka has said he began his elective office career as Hall High School's board representative.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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