Seniors share the student perspective with Board of Education


Seniors share the student perspective with Board of Education

November 10, 2020

Warwick Valley seniors Simone Sullivan and Kelly Sullivan – no relation – are serving as the District’s student representatives to its Board of Education for the 2020-2021 school year. The District encourages student interaction with its Board of Education and involvement in governance activities. Even as non-voting members, the say of student reps is an integral part of how the Board gains student insights into decisions that can affect the entire school community.

Both Simone and Kelly were students in Mr. Gene Burns’ AP US History class last year. Mr. Burns, who was also Student Senate advisor prior to his retirement in June, was also familiar with the two students because of their service on the Senate – Simone as treasurer and Kelly as secretary – during the 2019-2020 school year.

“For the past few years, Gene Burns had been recommending possible student representatives to Dr. Leach and the Board of Education from among his classes,” said High School Principal Marguerite Fusco. “The students who are chosen then meet with Dr. Leach and the Board President prior to the new school year to discuss the role of student members on the Board.” 

Student representatives weigh in on topics like student activities, programs, and needs. They are given opportunities to take an active role in education, and provide invaluable insight to the Board from a unique perspective.

“We want them to know the student perspective,” said Simone. “Our goal is also to provide a positive note in troubling times.”

Together, Simone and Kelly compile a list of District highlights and concerns from a student perspective between each monthly Board meeting. The pair then meets with Principal Fusco to review the list and prepare their talking points prior to presenting at each meeting. Besides serving as a vital line of communication month to month between the student body and the Board, the process fosters a culture of free inquiry and expression, wherein students feel comfortable expressing themselves and carefully evaluating the opinions of others.

“Serving on the Board has already taught me public speaking skills, especially when engaging with and presenting to people at a higher station, or who might be considered our superiors,” said Kelly. “I enjoy seeing how the Board, faculty and community members all talk and connect before and after meetings.”

Kelly was initially surprised by everyone’s approachability and friendliness, but said, “It’s clear that everyone involved just wants what’s best for the students and the community.”

“Taking an issue to the Board that our students think ‘needs improvement’ is a big part of our role,” said Simone. “So, in that way, this position has already given me a lot of advocacy and leadership training.”

Asked if either of them is thinking about pursuing a career in advocacy or public service, both Kelly and Simone said they had other interests, but that their service to the Board still provides experience that will help them going forward. Kelly would like to become a Physician Assistant and is planning undergrad study in some area of health science or public health, while Simone is looking to major in STEM with a possible minor in political science.

Simone and Kelly both attended the first couple of Board meetings this year, and they will alternate who will be present at each of the monthly sessions through the end of the year.

Warwick Valley Board of Education student representatives Simone Sullivan, left, and Kelly Sullivan in the Dorothy Wilson Education Center Board/Community Room.


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