School puts increased focus on student voice

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Student voice matters, especially when it comes to their input on how 180 days of their year are spent. Promoting students’ voices allows students to have power and control over their education and to contribute to their school to make it their own. Many students have expressed the desire for unity within the school and therefore their opinions to be valued.

Students would like to have a say in what occurs within the school and for their input to be made into real change. Senior, Gael Badibanga, said, “The ideas students have need to actually get implemented. Their voices need not only to be heard, but action needs to also take place.”

Badibanga said, “Our school could improve student voice by allowing students to have power and letting them get involved, such as leading conferences.”

Many impactful decisions are made on a regular basis by adults within the school system for students, rather than with them. However, the best way to know how students truly feel about what is occurring around them, is for them to be given a platform on which they can be heard.

Students have noticed where a majority of the power lies within the school, and they would like to see some changes being made. Senior Rose Romano said, “Our school has a lot of clubs and activities, but maybe if we encourage student voice more and decision making policies in this school, I think the school would be better. In general if students were more involved in decision making things, people would be able to talk to the students that make decisions and get answers and I think the school would be way more informed about things that are happening, because right now, it’s a lot of adults making decisions for us that directly impact our lives and we don’t really know about it.”

Within the past school year though, initiative has been taken. There have been several student forums — one in the spring and one in the summer — held to get multiple perspectives, from different kinds of students, on what their dream school would look like.

As Principal Colleen Weiner and administration reflected on the students within the school, they settled on something. Weiner said, “We really tried to incorporate more student perspective in particular after students did such a fantastic job with the peaceful protest…it really showed the power of youth and how respectful, and responsible they are as young people, and I felt like we were not giving you enough opportunities to demonstrate that.”

Weiner recently created a Principal Advisory Board, consisting of students from different grades and diverse experiences, in order to continue the dialogue between students and administration. Regarding the Principal Advisory Board, Weiner said, they were “trying to meet with students every week to give you a venue to have conversations and figure out ‘What do we need to do to support all these students taking AP?’ What do we need to do to support kids who are thinking about taking AP classes or any class.”

In an attempt to have students speak directly to teachers about their experience with school, Weiner had English Language Learner and AP students present to teachers why they chose the classes they did, how they feel about their experience, and what these teachers could do to support them. Badibanga, one of the students presenting at this meeting said, “We give our input to the administration on how teachers can keep in mind that, several students take other AP classes and are very involved in extracurriculars. We do this in an effort to possibly have teachers to manage the amount of work they give.”

With receiving input from students, and creating student groups that work with the administration to improve the school as a whole, our school is making progress and will only improve from here on out. Principal Weiner wants to allow students to have platforms to speak their mind and express their opinions. Weiner said the school is “just trying to make sure that we infuse your perspective as much as possible so that you’re an active part of your education on a big picture level and within the classroom.”

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