Student board member program at AEC helps future leaders develop their governance skills

Student board members are integral to ensuring student voice is heard and included in decisions made by local governance teams that, ultimately, impact tomorrow’s leaders.

The Student Board Member Program at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference is the only statewide professional development opportunity in which student board members can expand their governance horizons. This program provides student board members with a focus on developing their governance skills while they also become more familiar with their role as a governance team member. Through a mixture of presentations, discussions and interactive exercises, students are introduced to the principles of good governance, share ideas on best practices and build a network among their peers. This engaging training will provide student board members with the resources necessary to enhance their role on your governance team.

CSBA has hosted a student board member program for several years, but at nearly 100 student participants, the discussions and variety of student input at last year’s AEC was the most robust to date. During one breakout session on Dec. 5, 2019 in San Diego, small groups of students were asked to brainstorm a handful of topics for which they would like to have sample policies to bring home to their local districts and schools. The room would vote on about five topics that the student board members would then dive deeper into during their time at AEC.

Student board members can bring valuable insights to the table when it comes to determining what effect policy decisions could have on the student body or getting to the root of student concerns to determine how best to allocate resources.

Student participation in district governance, however, can only be truly realized if school board members actively seek to include their student board member. For an in-depth look at the direction some of today’s student leaders are taking, and to learn more about their plans to establish stronger, student voice in local governance bodies, check out the fall 2020 issue of California Schools magazine.

At the state level, the California State Board of Education approved three finalists for the position of 2021–22 SBE student board member at its November meeting, and heard proposals from student delegates developed during the 2020 Student Advisory Board on Education Conference held virtually from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, 2020. Topics included student representation in education governance, racial equity, civic education and school safety. In response to a proposal from the advisory board last year, a student member was appointed to the Instructional Quality Commission.

There are myriad ways governance teams can better integrate their student board member. CSBA encourages boards to provide learning opportunities to student board members through trainings, workshops and conferences, such as AEC, through which students are introduced to the principles of good governance, have the space to share ideas on best practices and build a network of support among their peers. Boards can also provide incoming student board members with an orientation designed to build knowledge of the district and an understanding of the responsibilities and expectations of their new position.

Student board members have the right to attend and participate in all open meetings of the board, be recognized as full members and cast preferential votes on all open session items, meaning their vote conveys a formal expression of opinion that is recorded in the minutes, but does not affect the final numerical outcome of the vote. Student board members must also receive open meeting materials and staff briefings at the same time as other board members, and, pursuant to a recent law, receive any other materials distributed to the board between meetings as long as they do not pertain to closed session items.