Students participating in principal hiring, advocating for school improvement and taking action to enrich and enliven student engagement throughout their school during a regular course in school experience Meaningful Student Involvement.
During the 2007-08 school year students at the Black Hills High School in Tumwater, Washington, participated in the hiring of their future principal. This is an example of students as school planners.
Meeting after school, students were able to tell district hiring officials exactly what they wanted in their future building leader. The students respectfully and deliberately pressed the officials about standardized tests, student-principal interactions, and community building within their school. Taking root in the school’s Student Engagement Team, the students had been preparing for the meeting for several months. In addition to participating in the hiring process, participants, who are self-selected, have conducted building-wide surveys and testified before the Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives.
They continually encourage educators to move to working with students instead of for them. This level of participation in planning encourages students to see ahead of their own time in schools. Members of the Student Engagement Team have planned schoolwide forums for the 2008-09 school year, and their advisor has stated her commitment to maintaining membership open to all students at the school. Towards the end of the school year final candidates for the principal position at the school had the opportunity to answer students’ questions directly, and when they were interviewed the panel included a student from the Team.
Speaking of the Team, Bob Kuehl, the Human Resource director of the Tumwater School District, said of the Student Engagement Team,
“They are very insightful of the needs of a school from a student’s perspective and they are very candid about their opinions and thoughts… They have a lot of strong feelings that need to be heard and used.”
This type of commitment is exactly what Meaningful Student Involvement can—and should—foster among all partners throughout a school. (Barton, 2008)