OPS school board is joined by two student representatives

June 2, 2024 | 12:07 am

Updated June 2, 2024 | 12:12 am

Owensboro Public Schools will become the 18th school district in the state to have student representatives present on the School Board as non-voting members starting this July.

Rising Junior Khoa Ta presented the idea to the board during a luncheon in October. He said it sparked after years of education policy exposure he has encountered. Ta is involved in several organizations throughout the Commonwealth and the nation geared at education and amplifying students’ voices in policy.

“I thought it was essential that Owensboro, being the 4th largest city in the state and just being a student in general, it was essential to show the student voice and platform voices that are typically not heard to legislative or even policymaking decision positions that affect us as students,” he said.

When he presented back in October, School Board Vice Chair Leigh Roades Doyal said she instantly emailed the Kentucky School Boards Association to learn more about other schools that had implemented the program.

She reviewed the policies from other schools and eventually drafted one with the Board’s approval. In other policies, she noted the principal or superintendent appoints the student to the non-voting member position, but they opted otherwise.

“Ultimately, we decided to let the student body decide who the two representatives would be in an election, which they had a few weeks ago,” she said.

To be eligible to run, students must be sophomores or juniors at either Owensboro High School or Owensboro Innovation Academy, with OHS being their home school, and maintain an overall 2.5 GPA or higher before their term of service. Principals or designees at OHS or OIA will validate the student before sending it to the Superintendent, who has final approval.

Doyal said eligibility is not random, as students also needed 3 recommendations from staff and 25 enrolled students to support them. She said they chose the middle grades to get students at their prime point in high school.

“We want sophomores and juniors who are really invested, and we knew they would be invested for the following year because a lot of the policies we’re making will be for them going forward,” she said.

As part of the policy, students would only serve for one year — July 1 to June 30 — and cannot vote in policy decisions or participate in closed sessions, but they will participate in discussions and provide updates from the schools.

Ta and fellow rising junior Sam Busse were selected as the first representatives for the program.

The two will represent roughly 1,600 students at both schools and are excited about what this venture will produce.

“It’s almost essential to remind yourself that it’s for everyone and the whole entire student body in general,” Ta said. “… I feel like there are plenty enough reasons why students, even for a one-year term, are going to be successful in explaining and showing the student body’s perspective.”

For Busse, he wants to use this opportunity to help spread information about education policy within the schools.

“If you have students giving the student input, that’ll be fairly helpful. The Board has a general idea of what’s best for us, but hearing what students want and how they feel about different ideas is definitely important too,” Busse said.

Doyal said the decision ultimately goes back to the district’s strategic plan. In the plan, they wanted to find a systematic way to support students better and encourage them to share their voices.

While only 17 other schools actively have a student representative on the school board, Doyal said it was important they implement this even as it is in the early stages throughout the state.

“We’re excited to be one of the first and at the front of this sort of idea of listening to our students well and figuring out their needs because that’s what we’re here for,” Doyal said.

June 2, 2024 | 12:07 am

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