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WSESD board to include student members

Vote is unanimous, deemed long overdue

BRATTLEBORO—Members of the Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) plan to include two students for one-year terms each on the school board going forward.

Brattleboro representative Lana Dever said at the April 12 meeting that the process to develop a proposal to do so was “very collaborative” among all board members and school administrators.

“We look forward to working with the [Brattleboro Union High School] administration as we implement this initiative,” Dever said.

“This is something that is long coming and on our to-do list, and there kept being constant other things,” said Windham Southeast Supervisory Union school board Chair Michelle Luetjen Green of Dummerston via Zoom, thanking those involved for moving it forward.

The invitation is for rising sophomores or juniors to take two places at the table. Seniors were not included, said Dever, after the group “thought about what the life of a senior looks like,” with potential jobs, early graduation, and more.

She also said she hopes that whether or not students are on the board, they would “consider to show up and use your voice.”

Former board member Jody Normandeau of Dummerston called the inclusion of students overdue.

“This having students on the board has been a long time coming, and I congratulate you for doing it,” she said via Zoom. “It really is necessary to have the students’ input. They are the ones who are living this life.”

The board approved the proposal unanimously.

“Although Vermont state law does not yet allow student representatives voting rights, their voice on school matters will serve an important need as the board strives to fulfill its mission to provide a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment where all students grow academically, socially, and emotionally and are challenged to reach their potential as local and global community members,” reads the proposal.

It goes on to note “re-establishing student representatives on the board provides invaluable learning opportunities for students while also providing the board with insights from these high stakeholders in matters of education.”

Students serving as official representatives on the school board would be expected to attend regular meetings of the board, either in person or via Zoom; become familiar with and abide by relevant policies, including the WSESD Code of Ethics; and represent a diversity of opinions on a range of pertinent issues.

“As is consistent with the WSESD’s hiring policy, the school board encourages student applicants from traditionally marginalized groups and those who will work to promote diversity, equity, social justice, and anti-racism in our school district,” the invitation reads.

Interested students are asked to prepare written responses or video-recorded answers to the following questions by Tuesday, May 10 at 5 p.m.:

• “What do you feel are the most pressing issues facing our school district today?”

• “Why do you wish to become a member of the WSESD School Board?”

Applications should be directed to Mike Szostak at mszostak@wsesdvt.org with contact information. In the subject line, please write “Student Rep Application.” Prospective student board members will then be contacted for a personal interview with two WSESD board directors.

Service on the WSESD School Board will count toward community service required of BUHS students. The term for the first year will begin as soon as possible and end March 1, 2023.

In-person interviews will be confidential and shared only with board members in private, executive session. Student representatives will be assigned to work with board mentors for support and guidance.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #661 (Wednesday, April 27, 2022). This story appeared on page A3.

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