Two years ago there was an unusual number of students seated in the unyielding wooden chairs of the high school library as the Ledyard Board of Education filed into their semi-circle table and called their meeting to order. An unusual number of students, parents and community members waited patiently, scuffing their feet over the carpet, fidgeting with the corners of the informational pamphlets that had been handed out and rehearsing in their minds how they intended to use the three minutes they were permitted to speak. The reason for the unusual spike in attendance was the same reason we still haven’t replaced the toilet that fell of the wall in the girls’ bathroom in the 300s hallway: the budget.
This meeting was to finalize cuts being made to student organizations. Students and parents alike stood at the podium addressing the Board about the boys’ swim team, the golf club and the print edition of The Colonel news magazine, all urging the Board to reconsider making these cuts. However, to the dismay of the students, the Board carried through with their plan, stating that if students had concerns, they should have expressed them much earlier. But how were the students supposed to know the board was even planning on making cuts?
That’s where the most recent Board of Ed meeting comes in. Sitting in the same library two years later, four students were in attendance: seniors Gianni Jannke, Rachel Robeson and May Zhang and junior Joe LoDuca — the newest members to the Board of Ed. This had been one of Superintendent Cathy Patterson’s goals for several years; having students at Ledyard High School involved with the Board of Education.
“Our goal is to move towards a pretty active role,” Jannke said. “I’m interested in giving a greater voice to the students and fostering a better relationship between the board and the students.” Although Jannke and his three peers are currently non-voting members who share two seats at the table, the goal is to provide a bridge between the student body of the high school and the board making important decisions on their behalf.
School affairs have been divided into five categories to be discussed by the students: academics, athletics, music, agriscience and community. It is now the job of these four students to keep the Board of Education informed of student life at the high school. For example, in their last meeting they discussed Spirit Week.
“I think over time they [the BOE] will come to think of the student representatives as incredible resources,” Principal Amanda Fagan said. Fagan reached out to the student body to see who would be interested in acting as a student representative. Although Patterson’s original plan was for two students to participate, a junior and a senior, four students expressed interest early on so plans were made to incorporate all four students.
Although the program is still in the beginning stages and all the wrinkles are still getting ironed out, this new institution could prevent the kind of clashing that occurred at the budget meeting in 2014. At the time, students were caught off guard and felt as if their ideas and opinions had no weight. Now, if the same situation were to occur, this new system will give them the connection they need.
In 2014, then a senior and editor-in-chief of The Colonel, Leslie Rowland had three minutes to express to the board what The Colonel meant to her, how she felt print was keeping the publication alive and how money could be found to support it the day the decision was being made rather than months in advance. Students like Rowland will have more of an opportunity to communicate with the board and will now know in advance when important decisions are being made.
“There needed to be more transparency with the board,” Rowland said. “Having a student delegate work step-by-step with the board could have avoided these issues. I believe having a well-represented and respected student delegate on the board could have alleviated the blow to student activities.”
Alex Houdeshell, Assistant Editor in Chief of Horizons
Junior Alex Houdeshell is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Horizons Yearbook. She is the president of Operation Smile and participates in Cupcakes for Causes. She is on the soccer team and she runs Indoor Track and Track and Field.