Anne Arundel County sits on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, halfway in between Baltimore and Washington, DC. According the county government website, Anne Arundel is a diverse, growing area, measuring up to the challenges of being a historic mid-Atlantic city with the demands of modern times. One of the most exciting measures of success comes from the county’s education agency (which operates on the same level as districts do in most states).
According to our interview with Sue Hannahs, director of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Student Leadership and Involvement Office, a high school senior has participated as a full-voting member of the County Board of Education since 1975. This member votes on all issues, including personnel, curriculum, and more.
In an article by Wendy Lesko of Youth Activism Project, several successes of the student member are detailed. They include the McGill Plan, named after the student board member who proposed modifying the bus schedule during high school mid-term and final exams. This move saves the district $100,000 annually.
A past report cited several keys to how this student’s role is successful. They include:
- Common understanding of the student’s role. Students and educators understand that the student member is not the student representative; instead, they are someone who will provide the viewpoint of a student in school matters.
- Careful selection of the student member by other students. The student member is not meant to represent a submissive or dominating perspective to adults. Instead, they are to offer something different t already established viewpoints by adult Board members.
- Support from multiple levels of decision-making. The Maryland State Legislature passed specific language in 1975 to support the student’s role, thus mandating participation by State Law.
Today student involvement is an accepted – and expected – part of school decision-making in Anne Arundel County Public Schools. As well as the district school school board, students participate on every advisory, curriculum and study committee. Students sound out on grading policies, alternative education, and other areas as a matter of procedure. State mandated School Improvement Teams involve large percentages of students – as many as 5 students on a 10 person Team.
All of these actions, and many more, make Anne Arundel County Public Schools a beacon for student involvement in school decision-making around the nation. I salute Anne Arundel students and educators, and encourages others to follow their lead.
For more information contact the Student Leadership & Involvement Office at Anne Arundel County Public Schools, 2644 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD 21401 (410)222-5405.