Members of the Henry County School Board unanimously approved a policy and outlined a procedure to elect student board members.
Monica Hatchett, director of communications, presented the proposed policy, procedure, and timeline to include student members, after Ben Gravely, of the Iriswood District made the proposal in September.
“Recently, as a board, you all asked that we look at getting some information gathered for you of a model policy,” Hatchett said. “We have some information to share with you about the potential for bringing on student school board members.”
Hatchett said the topic was discussed with school districts that have student board members and ideas were sought to craft a similar policy. Student board members would act only in an advisory position and would not have voting power.
“In looking over model policy and then talking with other school divisions who do have student school board members, the student representative participates in an advisory capacity. That student is not a voting member of the board,” Hatchett explained.
There also would be other restrictions, she said. For instance, student board members would not participate in closed session meetings or have access to confidential information, such as student and personnel records.
“They don’t attend closed sessions in most of the school divisions that we spoke to,” Hatchett said. “In Virginia, we have about 42 school divisions that have student school board members. We did not speak with all of them, but the information we received said they don’t typically attend closed meetings.”
Expectations of student members include attending all open meetings and performing research/data collection assignments as requested by the board.
According to the policy, the principal of each county high school would nominate students for consideration of appointment to the board.
Schools Superintendent Sandy Strayer then would select student representatives, pending final approval by the board.
Hatchett said most school divisions select a student to serve one year term.
“However, our proposal, especially if you all plan to institute during this school year given the fact that the year is already in progress, would be that one of the schools have a student representing them who is a senior and one of the schools would have a representative who is a junior,” she said.
Hatchett said this is to create a sense of experience, flow, and continuity to the student board member position.
“We would always have someone who has experience. So that junior would then actually serve a two-year term because they would serve for their junior and senior year. That’s something that’s divergent from some of the other school divisions that we spoke with,” she said.
Hatchett then presented a proposed timeline to implement the policy, including the first step of adopting the student board member policy.
“Either this month, or in November, you all could adopt a Student Board Member Policy. Typically, we present policies for first reading and then for adoption. Certainly, as a group, if you decided tonight that you would like to go ahead and do that, it’s totally up to you,” she said.
After adoption, Strayer would request two nominations from the principals of both high schools in November, possibly a junior and a senior. The board members would then select a junior and a senior member for the board positions that same month. The members would be approved in December and start participating in January.
Cherie Whitlow, at-large member, supported the policy.
“I think it’s a great idea. I’d like to move forward,” she said.
Teddy Martin, II, of the Reed Creek District, broached having a junior in a two-year term.
“That was actually one of the things that, when I was asked to speak to all the student school board members for VSBA (Virginia School Board Association) Conference, that was one of the comments some of them made was, ‘I feel like I have this one-year term and then I learn everything and then I’m done,'” he said.
Strayer noted the board had time to continue discussions.
“You could choose to wait until the next month and adopt this policy, or the board could choose to make a motion tonight to adopt this policy.”
Sidney McClure, of the Ridgeway District, made the motion to adopt the policy. Terri Flanagan, of the Horsepasture District, seconded, and the policy was unanimously adopted by the board.
In other matters, the board:
* Presented VSBA awards to members:
Whitlow, Gravely, and Elizabeth Durden, of the Collinsville District, received Awards of Recognition; Tom Auker, chairman and of the Blackberry District, received the Award of Excellence, and Martin received the Award of Distinction.
“These awards are earned through board service, but not just traditional board service. There are different activities, workshops, conferences that our members participate in. We appreciate you all going the extra mile,” Hatchett said.
* Heard public comment from Ronald James, of Ridgeway, about scheduling, grouping, and the impact it has on bullying in schools, particularly in middle schools.
“It brings bullying to a whole new level that I have never seen in my life. I never experienced grouping teaching in middle school. It brings the mob mentality to it. If you don’t have a friend within the first three months, you ain’t got a friend for the whole entire semester. You ain’t got a friend for most of the year.”
James said the current status also allows students to figure out how to push teachers’ buttons. He added that four-years of high school does not allow students enough time to learn maturity.
“When they come out of school, they’ve only had four years to make their own decisions, to make it to class, be responsible, be on time. That responsibility needs to start earlier,” he said.
* Appointed Lisa Gardner as School Nurse Coordinator.
* Heard a presentation by students regarding Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
* Recognized October as Bullying Prevention Month and Disability Awareness Month.
* Heard the 2022 Division Equity Report.
* Approved an additional appropriation of $220,200 to the School Nutrition Budget for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and agreed to forward the request to the Henry County Board of Supervisors.
* Reappointed Gravely to serve on the Piedmont Governor’s School Governing Board and reappointed Flanagan as the alternate.
* Heard Strayer’s report.
* Approved the consent agenda as presented.
Durden attended the meeting virtually.
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