Student representation is a concept the Buncombe County Board of Education does not seem to be able to grasp.

Since February, I have written letters, delivered speeches and have called politicians at both the local and state levels of government about adding a nonvoting student adviser onto the local Board of Education. The student adviser would not be involved in closed sessions that concern personnel or individual students.

Student representation is not a strange concept. Along with many other states, the N.C. Board of Education has two student advisers who attend every board meeting and speak on issues affecting students across the state. Many local school boards across the country have student advisers, including several in California.

To provide equal representation to all of the county’s high schools, the student council from each school would select one delegate to serve on a student advisory panel. That panel would then nominate one person to serve as the county’s student adviser for one year. The student adviser would bring issues brought up through the panel to the school board and from the school board to the panel.

Some board members claim that having two students on school advisory committees provides sufficient representation to the student body. However, these committees are far removed from the workings of the Buncombe County Board of Education. They rightly focus on the needs at their individual schools, and that does not always represent the needs of the entire county. A student adviser would be better able to articulate the interests of all students directly to the board without having that information filtered through several layers of bureaucracy or limited to a five-minute public comment statement.

My proposal has the unanimous support from my school’s student council, 60 faculty members and the Asheville Citizen-Times. Six government officials from across the state have offered encouragement for the idea.

The school board affects the daily lives of nearly 26,000 students who have little to no input into the decisions that the board makes. Having a student adviser will not only provide representation to the students, but it will also give students a chance to participate in their local government and students will know that their opinions are heard.

I encourage everyone who has any interest in this proposal to come to the next school board meeting in August to give his or her input on the matter. I encourage you to vote for a candidate who will use his or her position for the sole benefit of the students – no one else.

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