Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

Skip First Level Navigation | Skip All Navigation

Home > For Youth > Student Representation on Maine School Boards

Archived material. This page is no longer maintained.

Student Representation on Maine School Boards

May 23, 2005

Survey created and administered by Kerry Salvo, KIDS Consortium AmeriCorps*VISTA

Background

The Maine State Task Force on Citizenship Education is working to implement strategies for promoting effective citizenship education models in our schools, colleges, and communities. As a grantee of the Civic Mission of Schools, the Task Force aims to create an educational system whereby:

Maine youth are knowledgeable as citizens, and are motivated and participate in the democratic process, thereby invigorating the public life of our communities, State and nation in a responsible way.

The Youth Voice and Leadership committee has decided to gather information about the opportunities for meaningful youth involvement on district school boards and committees, and other decision-making bodies in their school district.

A. Methodology:

A list of all Maine superintendents and their emails was obtained from the Maine School Management Association. An initial email survey was sent to all superintendents, and three email follow-up inquiries have been sent to non-respondents. The inquiries asked the following questions:

  1. Do you have young people on your district's school board?

If YES,

  1. How many students?
  2. How long is their term?
  3. How are they selected?
  4. In what capacity do they serve? (Do they have voting rights, only play advisory roles, etc.)
  5. What was the process that led to the integration of students on the school board?
  6. When did this happen?
  7. What are your opinions and the opinions of other school board members in the district about these young people and the role they play?
  8. Are young people members of any other important boards/decision-making bodies in the district? If yes, could you provide me with some details on this involvement?

B. Respondents:

According to the Maine School Management Association, there are 163 districts and superintendents in the state. All 163 districts were contacted via email. 106 districts have responded to the survey, which is a return rate of 65%. Of the respondents, 99 were superintendents, 3 were principals, 3 were administrative assistants to the superintendent, and 1 was an administrative assistant and a student. The geographic distribution of responses is as follows:

  • Southern (19): 17.9%
  • Midcoast (12): 11.3%
  • Central (17): 16.0%
  • Downeast (13): 12.2%
  • Western (12): 11.3%
  • Northern (33): 31.1%

C. Summary of Responses:

  1. Do you have young people on your district's school board?
  • Yes (27): 25.5%
    • Southern (9): 33.3%
    • Midcoast (4): 14.8%
    • Central (7): 25.9%
    • Downeast (1): 3.7%
    • Western (2): 7.4%
    • Northern (4): 14.8%
  • No (79): 74.5%

If YES:

  1. How many students?
    • 1 (10): 37.0%
    • 2 (15): 55.6%
    • 3 (2): 7.4%
    • Have alternates (3): 11.1%
  2. How long is their term?
    • 1 year (13): 48.1%
    • 2 years (7): 25.9%
    • Until graduation (4): 14.8%
    • As long as they are Student Council President (1): 3.7%
    • Undetermined (1): 3.7%
    • No response (1): 3.7%
  3. How are they selected? (May not total 100%--districts can have more than one selection process)
    • Peers/student body elect representative (9): 33.3 %
    • Student council/senate selects (7): 25.9%
    • Applicant submits application and school committee/board votes (4): 14.8%
    • Applicant is Student Council or Student Body President/Vice President (4): 14.8%
    • Teachers select (3): 11.1%
    • Student is Nominated (2): 7.4%
    • Student is interviewed (2): 7.4%
    • Board chair invites student to join (1): 3.7%
  4. In what capacity do they serve? (Do they have voting rights, only play advisory roles, etc.) (May not total 100%--districts can select more than one option)
    • Advisory (17): 63.0%
    • True vote (1) [This is a special state Magnet school]: 3.7%
    • Show vote, but not counted (8): 29.6%
    • Do not participate in executive sessions (4): 14.8%
    • No response (1): 3.7%
  5. What was the process that led to the integration of students on the school board? (May not total 100%--districts can provide more than one response)
    • Unknown (2): 7.4%
    • Recommendation of superintendent/principal (5): 18.5%
    • Recommendation of board (3): 11.1%
    • Request from student council (3): 11.1%
    • Need for more democratic process (1): 3.7%
    • Need to expand communication between youth and boards (2): 7.4%
    • Need for more student voice/empowerment (8): 29.6%
    • Shift to public school board (1): 3.7%
    • Discussion between administration and board (1): 3.7%
    • Written into rules with school's inception (1) [This is a special state Magnet school]: 3.7%
    • No response (1): 3.7%
  6. When did this happen?
    • Unknown (2): 7.4%
    • This year (2): 7.4%
    • 1-4 years ago(6): 22.2%
    • 5-8 years ago(5): 18.5%
    • 9 or more years ago(6): 22.2%
    • No response (6): 22.2%
  7. What are your opinions and the opinions of other school board members in the district about these young people and the role they play? (May not total 100%--districts can report more than one opinion)
    • Very positive (12): 44.4%
    • Add to board function (3): 11.1%
    • Youth are valued/heard (22): 81.5%
    • Formalizes youth voice/expands youth role (3): 11.1%
    • Board can give youth too much influence (1): 3.7%
    • Improves communication with high school principal/student body (7): 25.9%
    • Critical part of student government (1): 3.7%
    • Depends on the adults on the board (2): 7.4%
    • Too soon to know (1): 3.7%
    • No response (1): 3.7%
  8. Are young people members of any other important boards/decision-making bodies in the district? If s, could you provide me with some details on this involvement?
  • Of districts having young people on school boards (27):
    • Hiring, policy, budget committees (9)
    • General committees within schools (3)
    • Student government (2)
    • Curriculum, education plan, and accreditation committees (2)
    • City Youth Advisory Council (2)
    • Invited to present at board meetings (1)
    • Calendar, Newsletter committees (1)
    • Safe and drug free school committees (1)
    • Dress code committee (1)
    • Youth court (1)
    • Youth philanthropy groups (1)
    • Leadership team (1)
    • No (2)
    • No response (8)
    • Of districts NOT having young people on school boards (78):
    • Student government (8)
    • Hiring, policy, budget committees (4)
    • General committees within schools (2)
    • Curriculum, education plan, and accreditation committees (2)
    • Leadership team (2)
    • Invited to present at board meetings (1)
    • Task Force to develop strategic plan (1)
    • Student Advisory Group (1)
    • No (4)
    • No response (60)
  • Other interesting responses:
    • 1 district is K-5 and 8 are K-8.
    • 4 districts are currently researching and/or considering youth membership on their school board/committee.
    • One district reported that it offers students a monetary stipend, just like adults!
    • One district used to have youth on the board, but due to disinterest by students the seat was discontinued. This district is considering reactivating this seat (and is included in the tabulation in the bullet directly above).
    • One district has the option for student membership on the board, but there has been no interest from qualified candidates.
    • Another district reports encouraging student council representation at the school committee level, but not having a student who will make a regular commitment to this date.
    • One district even has a middle school student as one of its 3 student representatives!
    • 2 districts report that students regularly give updates to the board in a formal way.
    • One school committee does involve students through standing committee participation. It has student representatives on policy and budget committees. Students have voting rights on these committees. Committee recommendations go to the full school board for approval.

D. Reflections on the Survey Results:

This data indicates that about 26% of school districts involve students on their school boards and committees. This survey is representative of the state and had a strong overall response rate with geographic diversity.

There is a need for further research on this topic. I see a need to more closely examine the procedures districts use to select young people to the board. In several cases it appears a young person is simply appointed if they serve as Student Body President and this may not necessarily be the most just procedure. Perhaps some of the districts that have trouble finding young people to serve in these positions should reevaluate their criteria and selection processes. Additional research could also be done on identifying other opportunities for student involvement on decision-making bodies in the districts because many districts did not respond to question #9 of this survey. The target audience and respondents of this survey were primarily adults in influential positions (superintendents). A next step to gather more comprehensive data on youth involvement on school boards and other decision-making bodies in school districts would be to contact and/or gather the young people who are members of their school boards to answer these same questions and share their perspectives on their involvement.

One could ask the question of whether youth involvement on the overall school board is the best way for authentic student involvement in Maine since Maine State Charter prohibits student school board members' votes from being officially counted. Survey results do indicate that once students do get a seat on their school boards, they are well received. For this reason, I see a great need for the discussion of student representation on district school boards/ committees to continue. The emphasis of education needs to be shifted from an adult perspective to a student perspective since the job of our schools is to fully educate young people -- according to results from this survey, the viewpoints and first-hand experiences of students prove to be valuable once they are finally included at the table.

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy