New Haven’s high school students are less than two months away from having representation on the Board of Education.
A revision to the city’s charter, which was voted on in 2013, included a change in the selection process for BOE representatives. The revision called for the creation of two positions elected by the public — as opposed to appointed by the mayor — and two elected student positions. A committee chaired by Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 has been working since March to organize the election process, which will mirror the process used for aldermanic elections and will occur on June 4. Eidelson said she wanted to ensure that the process would give students as much agency as possible in their selection of representatives. Elections for the two student representatives will take place on June 4.
“I’m looking forward to getting multiple students’ perspectives on policy that we make,” said BOE President Carlos Torre.
As with aldermanic elections, the election process for the students will have two stages: a petitioning and campaigning period. The petitions were first made available to candidates on April 9, and students interested in running are expected to collect 100 signatures from other New Haven students by May 7, according to NHPS Projects Manager Suzanne Lyons, who sits on the BOE election committee. Fifty signatures may include those from students at potential candidates’ own schools, but the other 50 signatures must come from students at five or more other schools. Following approval by the committee, candidates will have nearly a month to campaign before the June 4 election.
Thus far, only Kimberly Sullivan, a rising senior at the Sound School, has begun the petitioning process, but Lyons said she has received emails from almost a dozen other students who are interested in running.
Sullivan said she is running because there are a number of areas where the school system can improve, and she thinks students should have a voice in those changes.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, but just to make students’ voices heard will make a difference,” she said.
In order to run for the position, students must be New Haven residents enrolled at one of the city’s public or charter schools. For this year’s election, the committee is allowing both rising seniors and juniors to run, but for each subsequent annual election, one rising junior will be elected to serve for two years.
Per state law, the student representatives will not be allowed to vote on policy. They will, however, contribute to the BOE’s conversation and have the opportunity to offer input on legislation.
Lyons said she thinks this will present “an amazing opportunity” for students who have served on school councils and want to continue to have an impact on their education. She noted the potential challenge of having only two students represent the over 22,000 students in the district, but added that the committee will make sure that those two students get input from students across the district. Furthermore, Lyons said the two student representatives will go through training and be paired with a current BOE member who will act as a mentor.
City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said he believes the change in BOE selection protocol is consistent with the idea of representative democracy and “government by the governed.”
There are 10 high schools in the NHPS system.