Education

Student gets ‘seat at the table’ on school’s decision-making council

Zach Sippy is the first student representative on Henry Clay High School decision-making council. He was elected by other students as a non-voting member.
Zach Sippy is the first student representative on Henry Clay High School decision-making council. He was elected by other students as a non-voting member. Photo provided

It never made sense to Zach Sippy, a Henry Clay High School junior, that there were no students — the “most important stakeholders in the educational system” — on the powerful decision-making council that does everything from selecting a principal to setting school policy.

After a push by students, the council changed its bylaws this month to add a non-voting student advisory member to the panel of parents, teachers and administrators. Students elected Zach last week as the first student representative.

“The biggest, most important stakeholders in the educational system, students, who spend 35 hours a week in the classroom, were left without a seat at the table. Students ought to be co-creators and partners in their education, and this is a great first step,” Zach said.

When the decision-making councils were created in Kentucky in 1990, Zach said, the goal was to involve more “stakeholders,” and that’s why parents, teachers and administrators are all represented on the council. In recent months, students at both Henry Clay and Paul Laurence Dunbar have moved for student representation, he said.

In the Henry Clay student election, more than 1,400 ballots were cast, and Zach said he was elected to serve for the remainder of the school year, while fellow student Reagan Smith was elected to be the representative for 2017-18. Zach and Reagan will receive at least six hours of training on school-based council procedures.

Zach also is chairman of school governance for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence Student Voice Team. The team has advocated for state education legislation and policy.

“What made this so exciting is that students were leading this from the start,” Anne Boggess, a Henry Clay student leader, said of the campaign to bring students onto the Henry Clay council. “Students proposed the bylaw amendments and advocated for them, students organized the elections, students ran for the position, and students are now going to serve on the (decision-making council). None of this would have been accomplished without the support of ... adult allies, but this is a testament to what students and adults can achieve together.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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