With judgment, sometimes there is more than meets the eye.
Annika Spitzer and Madison Arthurs, student members of the Jamestown Public Schools Board, have learned a lot behind the scenes about running a school district. The two became student board members through the National Honor Society at Jamestown High School and both said they had found their time working with the board extraordinarily valuable over the past few months. They both said they now have a better understanding of how things work at the school board level.
The couple serve as public relations officers for the Honor Society, giving them their role as ex officio members of the school board. Spitzer and Arthurs are seniors at Jamestown High School.
‘It kind of really happened’ Spitzer said. “We saw that we could be joint PR officers, and we love doing everything together. It was perfect for both of us.”
Spitzer added that she learned a lot about the school’s leadership and governance process during her time with the board.
“It was really incredible because I understand the process better when you actually attend the meetings,” She said. “I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of rules and procedures that everyone has to follow…to solve the problems that every school faces. We have to be creative within those limits. I think what I’ve learned the most is my appreciation for what the board does and every conversation they want to have. They are really trying to create the best learning area possible.”
“Every action requires a lot of decision-making and time that we haven’t really thought about before,” Arthur said. “We value the Board of Directors and its members.”
Jamestown Public Schools Principal Kevin Whitaker said the school board and the region in general benefit from having students involved in the process.
“The main benefit is really the thing I care about in general which is the students’ voice,” Whitaker said, “And giving students the opportunity to either be asked directly or bring directly to the school board wonderful things that come from student life, things that present challenges or even opinions.”
Whitaker said Spitzer and Arthurs were asked for their opinions on various topics such as the mascot and other discussions the board had, and he said they had important feedback to provide.
“Students’ voice is very important, and this is an opportunity for that,” He said.
Spitzer said her favorite aspect of the job is watching the school board in action, including recognition for a job well done. In one case, I remembered the teacher’s confession.
“It was very authentic and real,” She said. “With everything crazy going on and the tough decisions that have to be made, it was nice to see a student and parent get to see how much hard work the teachers put in.”
The couple said the students come to them to tell them about problems and other things they’d like to let the board know from time to time. During weekly honors community meetings, they are given an opportunity to discuss what is happening and invite feedback from fellow students to bring to the school board.
Both Spitzer and Arthurs said they might be wary of becoming a publicly elected figure.
“With this attitude, you get a lot of backlash,” Spitzer said. “Sometimes I get a little frustrated[because]we’re like, ‘No, they have another rule to follow. That’s why they had to make this decision. This aspect is very far from this situation, however, and you see how much good can happen in this situation also when a person with good intentions is able to be a part of something bigger. I think it could be beautiful.”
Arthurs said she agreed with Spitzer’s assessments.
“I think the public doesn’t realize or most of the public doesn’t realize how much of a process everything is going through, and so people criticize every decision that someone in power makes without realizing everything that went into it,” She said. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to withstand all the backlash to everything I do. I think it’s going to affect me – it definitely will affect me. I don’t think I want to be in a position of great power, but behind the scenes that’s what I do.”
Along the same lines, Spitzer invited the public to participate in their local school board and see what the process looks like.
“I want them to feel welcome and let them know that everyone has a chance to express their opinions,” She said. There are specific parts of the meeting that are devoted to general discussion. We want to hear parents and the community opinions and advice and personal stories so we can all get a better understanding because 10 or 15 people in a room are educated or interested as much as we might be about Jamestown Public Schools, we don’t know everything and we want to hear your voice.”