The Vernon Township School District Board of Education introduced a policy on July 21 to have a student representative on the dais at board meetings.
The state recently passed a law that requires New Jersey’s school districts that include grades nine through 12 to appoint the student who serves as the president of the student council, or a designee, to serve as a non-voting student representative on the board.
The student will serve a one-year term and duties will include attending school board meetings (except for executive session), representing high school students and presenting student proposals, and keeping students informed of school board business by providing a monthly report to the student council.
Board of Education member Theresa Scura Coughlin said she wanted to make sure the student was elected to represent the student body and the board voted to make an election a mandatory part of the process.
“I trust in our students,” Coughlin said. “I think they’ve done a really good job on Student Council over the years. Usually, the students who are interested in this are usually the ones on the council. Personally, I give our students more credit than the policy.”
According to Superintendent Karen D’Avino, the principal creates the process. The high school principal – in this case, Vernon High School Principal Lindsay LeDuc – shall solicit student interest. If it’s more than one process, the students vote, and the person voted in becomes the student representative.
“I do think the faculty should be consulted,” D’Avino said. “High school students could nominate whoever and vote for this person and they could not be a very good representative, and they’d be sitting at the table with you, and they’d be portraying themselves and the student body to the public.”
The original draft of the policy didn’t specify that a student vote was not required, just a possibility.
“Student voice needs to be heard,” D’Avino said.