This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Public School District is still accepting applications for a non-voting student member of the new Board of Education.
Applicants must be in 11th or 12th grade for the 2018-19 school year in either a District or charter school, have a GPA above 2.5, and be actively involved in their school.
“We’re looking for students who are involved in their school communities and who won’t be shy about voicing their opinions to the Board,” Megan Lello, a District spokesperson, wrote in an email.
Mello was not able to provide the number of applications the District has received, but noted that they are still looking for more.
Student leaders in Youth United for Change said they hope a student member would be vetted and trained to understand the needs of students outside of their school or experience.
“We were hoping there would be some kind of training before someone is supposed to represent the entire student body,” said Aubre Taylor, a Central student and YUC member. “You need to be aware of how different schools operate and what happens in different neighborhoods.”
Ismael Jimenez, a leader of the Caucus of Working Educators who pushed for a Board of Education to replace the School Reform Commission, said he wants a student from a neighborhood school – as opposed to a school with admissions requirements – as a voice on the board because of those students’ “behind-the-veil” experience.
“In the city, a lot of students don’t have access to the same resources or opportunity that are available to other students in a magnet-type school,” he said. “That spans from having qualified educators to general treatment of the students in the school. In most magnet schools, students don’t even have to wear a uniform. There’s a totally different atmosphere in each building.”
According to the District website, “selected applicants will be interviewed by a committee that is made up of leaders from the Office of Student Support Services, Charter Schools, as well as youth from a district school, charter school, and Philadelphia Youth Commission. The committee will nominate a student representative to the School Board for approval.”
YUC is working on a mental health campaign that advocates for more resources in schools. Taylor said she wants the student member to regularly engage with organizations like hers that are made up of students who are active in making change.
“We want to see someone who is open and willing to talk to youth organizations,” she said. “Organizations have a wide variety of students from all different schools, so talking to them and other students is the best bet for diversity.”
Taylor also said that having a non-voting student member is not enough.
“I’d prefer voting, because organizations already talk to City Council and the board,” she said. “To make a change, the student needs to have a vote.”
This year marks the first since the School Reform Commission took control of the District in 2001 that a student has had an official voice in decisions made about their education. The student seat is expected to be filled by Aug. 31.
Applications are due to the District’s headquarters, 440 N. Broad St., by 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13. Application forms can be found here.