aec highlights

Student board members receive training at AEC
Student board members are a critical connection between school boards and the students they serve. At CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show this year, 70 student board members from 38 school districts came together to network, receive training and immerse themselves in conference activities alongside other education professionals.

Student board members attending AEC participate in a multiday program that includes an ice cream social, a continental breakfast and a networking lunch where students join in activities such as leadership training, open discussions about navigating district policies and more. Most student board members receive minimal training at the district level when they start their term. The AEC program, led by CSBA and California Association of Student Leaders staff, gives these young repre-sentatives the opportunity to build their advocacy skills while gaining strategies for becoming more effective members of their district gover-nance team.

“It’s our job to be a liaison from the general student population to the board members,” said Madison Laster, student board member for Redondo Beach Unified School District. Using tools such as student surveys and town hall meetings, these appointed students collect data from their peers and present concerns to their school boards. Those who attended AEC this year shared stories of triumphs such as helping create a new girls’ wrestling team, securing a minimum-day schedule change that better fit students’ desires and convincing the school board to change a dress code that students found “sexist.” Julissa Sauceda, student board member for El Monte Union High School District, shared a story of how student surveys lead to the addition of a salad bar and healthier nutrition options in her district’s schools.

Student board members also discussed other issues their peers find important. For example, an AEC attendee mentioned that his peers are concerned with the debate about whether grade point averages or stan-dardized testing scores should be the basis of student achievement data. Anthony Pacheco, student board member for Palm Springs Unified School District, said students in his district want more opportunities for career and technical education.

These student representatives take their responsibilities seriously. In a discussion about student board members’ roles, the students agreed that it is vital not to forget any student group. Student board members visit school sites and talk to other student groups such as Associated Student Bodies, Black Student Unions and Gay-Straight Alliances. Many student board members are also involved in other youth organizations that allow them to stay connected to their communities. For instance, AEC attendees Fabiola Moreno and Cindy Aguilar are youth commissioners for both the City of Gonzales and Gonzales Unified School District. The city and their school board work together to ensure that local governance hears youth voices.

Two new pieces of legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September are slated to change how student representatives sit on their district boards. Senate Bill 468 (Leyva, D-Chino) requires that all meeting documents and briefings given to school board members must also be offered to student board members. Assembly Bill 261 (Thurmond, D-Richmond) gives student board members the right to cast preferential or advisory votes. For more information about these bills and how to create a meaningful experience for your student board members, read CSBA’s December Policy News.