Students in the Elm City may soon be able to run for election as non-voting members of the Board of Education.
Last night, the Legislation Committee of the Board of Alders voted unanimously to approve the plan to add students to the Board of Education, which has been up for discussion since voters passed a wider education reform package restructuring the Board in November 2013. This ordinance allowing for student participation will be brought before the full Board of Alders for a first reading in roughly two weeks.
Under the proposal, the restructured Board of Education will comprise six mayoral appointees, two resident representatives elected by the public and two non-voting student members. Students who intend to run for the position must secure the support of 100 peers from five different schools, with at least half of those signatures from students who go to a school other than their own.
“The process is modeled after what we go through as alders to get onto the ballot,” Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 said. “It also ensures big schools don’t dominate the elections.”
Earlier proposals to include a GPA and attendance requirement, as well as a selection committee to screen potential candidates, have been dropped.
Eidelson said eliminating these requirements makes the process “more democratic,” adding that including students on the board also provides a valuable educational opportunity to learn about the process of running for office.
In addition, the final ordinance includes adjustments to the boundaries of the two electoral districts, which were controversial when first announced last year.
“We will keep Fair Haven together, so that we don’t dilute the Latino vote,” East Rock Alder Jessica Holmes said.
However, some were not as enthusiastic about including elected student representatives.
Jake Colavolpe ’18, who attended a New Haven public school and served as an appointed student representative on the Connecticut Board of Education, expressed concern that the election process might pose a barrier to entry. For instance, he said students could have great ideas but be bad public speakers.
Elizabeth Carroll, director of the Education Studies program at Yale, also expressed concerns about student representatives.
“We don’t want the election to become a popularity contest, through which high-achieving students accumulate ‘gold stars’ for their resume,” she said.
At the meeting, alders also shared contrasting visions for the number of signatures a student will need to run for election, which was originally set at 150.
Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand GRD ’99, who represents the Westville area, underscored the importance of signatures for board consideration, while Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. said the signatures might be onerous for students.
“As a teacher, I would not want my students to be so overwhelmed by the process. Even for me, getting 100 signatures for the alders election was a challenge,” Brackeen said.
Despite this, all Legislation Committee members supported the move to increase student participation on the Board of Education and anticipated that there would be widespread student interest.
Holmes also promised that the Board of Education will bear the financial burden of campaigning, so that low-income candidates are not deterred from running.
Correction: Feb. 19
A previous version of this article incorrectly named Ward 9 Alder Jessica Holmes, who represents East Rock, as Sarah Holmes.