A recent study conducted at the University of California, Santa Cruz, examined student trustee participation in board of education meetings in the county and offered a series of recommendations to increase student trustee participation in meaningful ways.
CSBA’s fact sheet on student participation on boards of education (bit.ly/3JtOfON) notes that the presence of student board members can “enable governance teams to incorporate student voices in their district responsibilities, elevating student perspectives on education policy decisions that they may not have otherwise considered.” In addition to making valuable contributions to policy discussions based on their experience, student members “get the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the governance process of their district, learn essential democratic skills, and represent and advocate for their peers.”
While many local educational agencies have the best intentions to incorporate student voice through a student trustee position, the LEAs evaluated in the study often fell short. The study found that student trustees have limited participation in most board meetings and were often relegated to simply giving reports of school-based activities.
To address this issue and improve the knowledge and confidence of student trustees, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education launched its School Board Academy for Students in summer 2022 with the goal of helping students understand how school boards function and training them on how to serve on boards.
“We were aware that students were often struggling with the ability to be able to successfully participate in board meetings,” said Santa Cruz COE Superintendent Faris Sabbah. “We felt that often their participation was more of giving a report of school-based activities, including sports and not necessarily playing an active role in the decision-making process that school boards partake in when it comes to policy. We set out to create an interactive, engaging, fun space for students to learn over the summer.”
The training consists of six sessions to learn about the role and responsibilities of a school board, including the Brown Act, Robert’s Rule of Order/Procedure, public speaking, ethics, how the school system works and how school budgets work. The academy …