Here’s to the Lynn School Committee for moving forward with a plan to bring a student representative into its Bennett Street administration building meetings.
The idea has a number of benefits and new committee member Jared Nicholson, an energetic supporter of the idea, and his committee colleagues are quick to point them out. First of all, placing an “ex-officio” non voting student on the seven-member committee is an exercise in democracy that will not be lost on students.
Under state law, a five-member student advisory committee representing local public high schools, is required to meet at least every other month during the school year with their adult counterparts. This advisory body’s last major responsibility prior to the end of an academic year is to pick the student representative who will bring student concerns to the School Committee.
Adults run schools and elected school committee members map out the policies for school operations, but students know what their peers think and they know what is “really going on” in a school.
It’s easy to say teenagers are too busy with mobile devices, homework, sports and social lives to want to participate in essential democratic exercises like picking someone to be their voice on Bennett Street, but that viewpoint is narrow and stereotypical.
Leaders emerge from every walk of life but young leaders must be nurtured and encouraged to grow and take risks. Local high schools already embrace this belief by participating in Posse scholarships. Posse sends high school students who emerge from a rigorous leadership testing process off to college with their tuition paid and surrounded by fellow Posse leaders.
The scholars are more than likely to be the same students who seek election in their schools to the student advisory committee and take an interest in becoming student representative to the School Committee.
It won’t take a great leap of imagination for a student representative sitting in the committee’s Bennett Street meeting room to glance at Nicholson and say, “I can follow in those footsteps,” and then look at older and more veteran committee members and follow the examples they set.
In return, committee members can look at local schools through the eyes of a student representative. The view may not always be a rosy one. As Committee member John Ford said last week, students can be “pretty outspoken” about successes and shortcomings in local schools.
But how else will elected school officials get an honest view on teenage substance abuse, sexual relationships and other challenges as well as student achievement if they are not listening to and speaking with students?