Polls open Thursday for the second student election for Board of Education membership in New Haven Public Schools history.
A 2013 referendum and revision of the New Haven City Charter stipulated that one junior and one senior sit on the BOE each year as nonvoting members. In last year’s inaugural election, Kimberly Sullivan, then a junior at Sound School, and Coral Ortiz, who was a sophomore at Hillhouse High School at the time, won BOE membership. This year, one NHPS sophomore will be elected to fill Sullivan’s seat when she graduates at the end of the school year.
Suzanne Lyons, the interim chair of the aldermanic Committee on Student Elections and a member of the BOE College and Career Pathways Department, oversaw this year’s election process.
“It’s our second year, and I’m excited to see if and how the awareness levels have changed and to see the excitement levels of students coming out tomorrow,” Lyons said.
Seven candidates — Jacob Spell and Dwayne Carson of the Hyde Leadership School; Alondra Martinez-Lopez, Melady Morocho and Tyron Houston of High School in the Community; Joseph Lampo of Wilbur Cross; and Yeimy Morales of Hill Regional Career High School — are vying for the coveted two-year membership on the BOE. Polls open as early as 7:45 a.m. in some schools, and all ballots must be collected by 3 p.m. on Friday, Lyons said. All NHPS high school students across the district are eligible to vote.
The candidates began their campaign for support from roughly 5,700 NHPS high school students in March. Lyons said she would still like levels of awareness among students to increase going forward.
Six of the seven candidates presented their campaign statements before a crowd of 60 at a Tuesday Election Spotlight, a public informational event held during the Citywide High School Student Cabinet meeting at High School in the Community. The student cabinet, which engages with NHPS students to learn about and resolve issues across the district, consists of four to six student representatives from each NHPS high school and the two seated BOE members, Sullivan and Ortiz. In an effort to increase student engagement, the meeting featured a video highlighting the importance of student voices on the BOE.
“It’s important that students that actually attend our schools give input on how our schools are doing,” Mayor Toni Harp, current BOE president, said in the video. “A lot of times they are actually the neutral voice on the Board of Education, and we absolutely need that.”
The election is intended to mirror a real municipal election, said Wooster Square Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, a member of the student elections committee. In order to qualify for candidacy, each of the seven high school sophomores had to collect 100 signatures: 50 from students at their own schools and 50 from students across the district.
Beaver Hills Alder Brian Wingate, another committee member, said he thinks the student BOE election process creates leaders. He added that he hopes the student elections will become “second nature” to residents of the Elm City.
Committee community representative Rachel Heerema emphasized the necessity of student input for the BOE, adding that the election process is “empowering” for all NHPS students.
“My dream is that students who run and students who vote and students who campaign for somebody all get more and more involved going forward in what’s happening in New Haven, and that they raise their voice and they are leaders and voters and they are educated about their rights and the opportunities that are available to them,” Heerema said.
The elected student BOE member will be representing the approximately 22,000 students enrolled in NHPS.