Board opts for invitation rather than student rep |

Board opts for invitation rather than student rep

High school students will be cordially invited to Douglas County School Board meetings but will not have a position on the board, as previously considered by trustees.

On Tuesday, board members unanimously approved a motion that directs the superintendent to send agendas each month to leadership teachers at Douglas and Whittell high schools.

By the same measure, the superintendent will invite students to attend board meetings if interested.

If students show up, the board is expected to publicly recognize and welcome them during public comment.

“I don’t know if it’s any different than what we already do other than we’re handing out the agenda as opposed to them encountering it on their own,” said trustee Karen Chessell.

Board President Sharla Hales said the measure might lessen intimidation for those students wishing to speak out on a topic.

Vice President Teri Jamin said it was a good starting point:

“I think this is a good way to initiate this.”

Board members have been mulling over the idea for months, often referring to the student representative who serves on the State Board of Education.

They’ve been trying to figure out a way to open the political process to those directly affected by it.

Trustee Ross Chichester raised concerns about the legality of a student representative – he or she could provide input but not vote in any capacity.

“Anytime there is an issue they’re passionate about, students show up in droves,” he said. “But we are the elected officials. It’s our responsibility to do this.”

Whittell High teacher Brian Rippet, also president of the Douglas County Professional Education Association, proposed including a board representative as part of student council governments at both high schools.

That way, he said, the board would have a consistent person to recognize who would feel comfortable in the role.

For now, whether the approved motion drives more students to contentious hearings, such as budget cut proposals, remains to be seen.