September/October 2022

ICYMI: Student Involvement in the Decision-Making Process

By Astrid Rodrigues, Principal, Queen Bee School District 16

Presenters: Lane Abrell, Ed.D., Superintendent; Kathy Baxter, Ed.D., School Board Member; Treasa Howard-Collins, School Board Member; and Kevin Kirberg, School Board President, Plainfield CCSD 202

Plainfield CCSD 202 serves approximately 25,000 PK-12 students from the communities of Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Joliet, Lockport, Naperville, Plainfield, Romeoville, and unincorporated Will and Kendall counties. The district strives to ensure that all students learn, achieve, and grow to their maximum potential.
 
The district has initiated a Student Ambassador program, where students share their perspectives with administrators and board members. Administrators and board members then factor these perspectives into the decision-making process on learning initiatives in the district.
 
The Student Ambassador program began in 2018 with the goal of improving the school district’s quality of decision-making by providing student insight and perspective to the school board and district administration. The district also wanted to develop leadership skills in its students, build lifelong commitment to the role and responsibilities of community citizenship, and teach students the complexities of political decision-making.
 
During the first year of the program’s implementation, one student from each of the district’s four high schools was selected to be the student ambassador for the school. The student ambassadors focused on projects such as transition of students who are English Language Learners and assisting freshman students as they integrated into high school. In the next school year, the student ambassadors advocated for bringing test preparation classes to the school and waiving final examinations for all students during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
The student ambassadors represent the student voice to district leadership, but decisions are made by the school administrators.
 
The school ambassadors hear perspectives of a diverse body of students by organizing high school leadership council meetings with other students, presidents of the various clubs, and captains of various athletic teams.
 
School administrators meet with the student ambassadors once a month to discuss ideas shared by the students and determine the next steps, if any, for implementation. The ambassadors periodically meet with the school board as well.
 
The Student Ambassadors shared that they like to be able to voice their concerns or the concerns of other students so that the district can make informed decisions. They also shared that they like to have two-way communications between their school administrators, board members, and students. CCSD 202 board members shared that they feel that it is important to hear from students and understand their perspectives.
 
The district plans on increasing the number of students involved in the student ambassador program. They would also like to increase the diversity of the student ambassadors to get perspectives from various academic achievement levels.
 
Through the implementation of the Student Ambassador program, School District 202 has demonstrated its commitment to actively seeking input from its student body and factoring those inputs into the decision-making process. The school district’s actions show its commitment to the district’s mission — preparing learners for the future.

Astrid Rodrigues, Ed.D., is Principal of Queen Bee School District 16 and was a participant in the Educational Administrator Internship program at the 2021 Joint Annual Conference. ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) is a semi-regular Journal feature that presents panel reports from the Joint Annual Conference. Reporters are participants in the Educational Administration Intern Program, a collaboration of IASB and the Illinois Council of Professors of Educational Administration (ICPEA).