“What do you think detention does for behavior?”
“What is going to happen if the Referendum does not pass?”
“Why do some schools have updated equipment and others do not?”
Those are just three of the questions asked at the 6th Annual Middle School Forum held October 30th at the ROSSAC building in Downtown Tampa.
Each year, two students from each middle school in Hillsborough County are chosen to ask a question in front of School Board Members and Superintendent Jeff Eakins. The students sit quietly, in chairs with their school name printed on the back and wait for their turn to speak. The microphone is passed around the room, and one-by-one the students stand, say their name and ask their question.
Superintendent Eakins and the Board members listen intently, many times taking notes.
This year, there were questions about school safety, life skills, cafeteria food and busing.
Chailin Delatorre, an 8th grader from Memorial Middle School, asked about bullying, “What resources can you provide so students can have better relationships with each other?”
Afterward, each Board Member is given the opportunity to answer questions, ask the student for more information, or even get the student’s opinion about what should be done.
That was the case with Chailin. “I feel like we need to connect more with each other and the number of bullying cases would go down," she said when asked what she would do to combat bullying. Chailin also talked about a program at her school called ‘Chosen Men and Chosen Women’ where a group of students meet every week to talk about ways to be successful in the future.
The Middle School Forum is something the School Board and the Superintendent take very seriously. At the beginning of the Forum, Superintendent Eakins told the students just how important their voices are. “We’ve made changes in Hillsborough County because of listening to students at this Forum,” he said. “Your solutions to your own questions can be very important”.
Not all questions are answered right away. Some questions may take time and research, but all will be answered.
It was a successful and educational day for the middle school students, who went back to their schools knowing their voice really does matter. It was also a significant day for the school district, to see what intelligent and passionate 6th, 7th and 8th graders we are grooming for the future.