Student reps were selected to serve on the board with the goal of increasing student engagement and providing a direct line of communication to how board decisions might impact students
BATTLE GROUND — If you’ve been to a Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors meeting recently, you may have noticed a pair of especially fresh faces seated at the table alongside the district’s administrators and elected board members. These aren’t just youthful looking, newly elected citizens — they are in fact student representatives selected to serve on the board with the goal of increasing student engagement and providing a direct line of communication to how board decisions might impact students.
“Having students on the board serving as representatives provides us with a greater understanding of how board decisions affect students,” said Superintendent Mark Ross. “They provide input on a variety of important decisions, including adopting the annual budget, making adjustments to school boundaries, policy adoption, and curriculum approvals. They’re also able to initiate new policy proposals aimed at improving student experiences.”
It’s also the kind of collaboration that has brought attention to Battle Ground Public School’s Board of Directors from around the state. Directors will receive a Board of Distinction award this week at the Washington State School Directors’ Associaton’s (WSSDA) annual conference in Bellevue for last year’s effort to involve stakeholders, and share how it brought the student perspective to its work. In the spirit of this year’s conference theme, “Culture of Connecting,” board members Troy McCoy and Monty Anderson, student representative Sidnie Boadwine, and superintendent Mark Ross will give a presentation on the district’s innovative and inclusive board structure.
One example of a new policy proposal that helped improve student experience was last year’s request to allow cap decoration at graduation, a practice that was previously not allowed in Battle Ground Public Schools. Students at Prairie High School approached their representative about getting the rules changed, and after hearing from the student representative, the board asked student leaders at all high schools to collaborate on parameters and a procedure that would allow students to decorate their caps. Students worked together to develop a set of guidelines regarding graduation ceremonies that the board approved. In the end it proved to be a successful endeavor, with students learning how the board governs and contributing to the new rules.
“We have so many incredible students in our district, and it’s an honor to ensure they have a seat at the table and a voice to air their concerns,” said Board President Troy McCoy. “The student representatives are hard working, mature beyond their years, and provide an invaluable service for Battle Ground Schools.”
This year’s student representatives on the board are Battle Ground High School senior Sidnie Boadwine, who is in her second year of serving as a student representative, and Battle Ground High School junior Addelynn Smith, who is in her first year as a rep. They were selected based on a policy that the board developed two years ago.
In the fall of 2017, the board approved district Policy 1250 — Students on Governing Boards. The policy states, “The Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors recognizes the value of communicating with students and receiving their input and perspectives. To foster this relationship with students, the board will annually seat two student representatives as advisory non-voting members of the board.”
After approving Policy 1250, the board of directors worked during the school year to develop the policies and procedures that would guide the new board structure,and then selected the first two student representatives later that summer.
Each high school in the district was tasked with creating its own process for nominating student representatives. The district’s two comprehensive high schools, Battle Ground and Prairie high schools, can select up to two nominees each, while the alternative high schools Summit View, CAM Academy, and River HomeLink may select one candidate each.
To be eligible for nomination, students must be sophomores in good academic standing (defined as having a minimum 2.5 grade point average).
Candidates are interviewed, and one student representative is selected in the spring to serve a two-year term during their junior and senior years.
“One student representative is a junior, and the other is a senior to ensure that we always have an experienced student rep on the board to help mentor the new rep,” said Battle Ground’s Deputy Superintendent Denny Waters. “We’ve been impressed by the leadership and initiative shown by the student reps, and we are pleased to have direct representation for our student populations.”
“Being on the school board provides an opportunity for students to grow personally and gain valuable experience and perspective,” Waters said. “They learn public speaking and listening skills, get experience accepting and valuing different opinions and ideas, and gain an understanding of the complexities of operating a school district.”
Student representatives on the board are expected to attend all meetings. They receive copies of all regular meeting agendas, minutes and other relevant information (excluding executive session materials); contribute to board discussions by providing insight and perspective; serve as liaisons for the associated student body; and report to their peers about the work of the board and district activities. Student representatives do not attend executive sessions, make motions during meetings, or hold board offices. They also do not vote.
Moving forward, the board of directors is seeking to increase student rep participation at board meetings, set up a system to allow for student rep advisory votes, and establish regular meetings between student reps and the schools they represent.
“I learned so much about finance and gained a deeper knowledge about all the ins and outs of what it takes to run a school district,” said Jayson Maddux, a 2019 graduate of Prairie High School who completed his term as student representative last year and is now studying Education at Boise State University. “When you can put ‘represented more than 13,000 students’ on your resume, you can’t help but be proud of yourself and grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given.”
The Board presented information about how having student representatives has benefited the district during the annual WSSDA conference in Bellevue this week. Board members will accept the Board of Distinction Award during the conference luncheon on Fri., Nov. 22. This is the second time in the last three years that Battle Ground’s Board of Directors will receive the award.
Information provided by Battle Ground Public Schools.