Prescott School Board adds youthful perspective

The School Board’s addition of two non-voting student members is seen as a win for the board and students.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Ramon Contreras' last name as Cervantes.

PRESCOTT — A basic idea in a democracy is that governing bodies should be accountable to the people most affected by their decisions. Perhaps with this idea in mind, the Prescott School Board has decided to allow two student representatives to serve as non-voting board members.

“I think it’s a bold move by our board to ask kids to come and participate in the conversations about policy,” said Prescott Superintendent Bill Jordan.

School board members had the idea for student involvement after attending the 2012 Washington State School Directors Association Conference last November. At the conference, board members saw a presentation from the Naches Valley School Board describing their experience with student representatives.

Jordan said the students on the Naches board were well-prepared, and seeing how students had an opportunity to provide input on school decisions made an impression.

“That was really impressive to our board,” he said.

Prescott has decided to allow one high school junior and one high school senior a non-voting spot on their board. Four students — senior Ramon Contreras and juniors Eric Sandoval, Alberto Sandoval and Emily Wilson — were interviewed by the board at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Contreras will serve on the board for the remainder of the year, while Wilson, Sandoval and Sandoval will compete for the other spot. To demonstrate their qualifications, the students will attend the next three school board meetings and come prepared to share their thoughts on the issues being discussed.

“We want to make sure the student voice is heard,” said Alberto Sandoval. The other students agreed, and all said they would consult peers and help communicate school board decisions back to their classmates.

Jordan said he hopes students will gain insight into how governing bodies work through their involvement on the board. He said this would help prepare them to be community members and taxpayers after graduation. The experience would also give students knowledge and leadership experience.

Wilson said that she had learned a lot by attending the school board meeting to be interviewed.

“I thought it was exciting just to be able to be there. I’d never been to a school board meeting before,” she said.

Contreras agreed.

“I got to speak my mind and share my thoughts,” he said.

The Prescott School Board was named Board of the Year at the WSSDA conference, something Jordan said they earned via forward-thinking measures like this.

“This is another indicator of why they were able to receive that distinction. They’re willing to try new things and involve all members of the community,” he said.

Contreras said he was excited that Prescott is one of the only school districts in the state allowing students to serve on the school board.

“We’re lucky,” he said. “We’re basically going to leave a legacy if other schools start doing it.”

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