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There’s nothing like getting your questions answered… By a person… A person who knows what they’re talking about… A person who has the POWER to take that question, provide an answer, and use that feedback to make changes.
THAT is the new way of work for our high school student forum.
In years past, students would come to the School Board, armed with their questions, and one-by-one read their questions aloud to School Board Members.
Board Members would then pick a few to try and answer.
This year, is different.
This year, students’ questions were separated into different categories. They walked into a large room and sat down at a specific table based on their questions.
There were tables for Operations, Transportation, IT Communications, Human Resources… Every department in the district you can think of.
Then each table had 45 minutes to hold a workshop-type discussion between students and district leaders.
Paige Ferguson, a senior who attends Spoto High School had a question about technology. She asked whether every student could be assigned a laptop. She said it would be so helpful to be able to have all their curriculum and textbooks and assignments on one piece of technology.
She posed her question directly to Rick Laneau… The General Manager of I.T. and Information Services.
It sparked quite the conversation among students at the table.
They agreed that having a laptop, or some sort of device, would positively impact their education.
Laneau took their feedback and ran with it. He asked them questions about resources and finances… And whether they thought that would be the best use of money.
It’s a discussion that’s far from over.
Laneau himself appreciated the efficiency of this type of high school student forum. He said, “we’re bypassing like 12 layers!”
All around the room, students got their questions answered by people who had the power to make changes.
After a 45 minute workshop-type discussion, each table picked a representative to present to School Board Members.
The representative talked about the questions their table discussed and what they learned from the district leaders.
Many times, the students had their questions answered.
Other times, it created a discussion about policy and perhaps potential changes about the policy.
Scarlett Fields is a student at Tampa Bay Technical High School. She wants to know why seniors can’t decorate their caps at graduation. She understands it creates concerns about rowdy behavior or potentially unsavory decorations on the caps… But she thinks that could be regulated.
Each School Board Member then took a few minutes to address the topics that really struck a chord with them.
School Board Member Cindy Stuart addressed the issue of decorating caps during graduation. She said she’s not opposed to it. “Graduation is a time for celebration… I believe you should be able to decorate your caps, I believe you should be able to toss them in the air!”
So, from this forum, and that specific concern, a change of policy could be made that will affect every senior in our district for years to come.
As Superintendent Jeff Eakins said at the beginning of the forum, referring to the students sitting at the tables, “the movers and shakers are in this room right now.”
The entire high school student forum will soon be available on hillsboroughschools.tv