A pair of Prince Edward County residents will fill student trustee roles with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) next year.
Kayla Zachariah from Prince Edward Colligate Institute (PECI) and Moira Gaddes, the new Indigenous student trustee who resides in Prince Edward County attends Eastside Secondary School (ESS) in Belleville are joined by Grace Whyte from Bayside Secondary school as the new student trustees for HPEDSB with their term starting August 1, 2020. The three were appointed to their positions at last week’s virtual Board of Education meeting
“The student trustees are there to represent all student voices, if you have three students from three very different schools you get the opportunity to get their perspectives at the table,” said Alison Kelly, trustee with HPEDSB for South PEC. “Sometimes as adults, you have on your adult thinking cap and you either forget or don’t know what to look at through the lens of a youth. So having them there they advocate on behalf of the student body and sometimes it’s just really refreshing because you make all these decisions and these policy changes that directly effect students, and when you’re not a student, you might think that this policy is in everyones best interest, and then you have a student who will say, ‘actually we need to look at this because of X, Y and Z.’”
The student trustees are leaders who represent the voices of all students in HPEDSB and are involved in many different ways a both their school and at the Board level.
For example, student trustee attend school board meetings and are knowledgeable about HPEDSB policies and procedures, serve as student representatives between the Board and the Student Senate, serve as the Board’s representatives at the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, attend the annual Ontario Student Trustees’ Association conference and undertake a mentoring role with the incoming Student Senators.
“Having student trustees on the Board means that HPEDSB is informed by student voice,” said Jennifer Cobb, trustee with HPEDSB for North PEC. “We hear about the lived experiences of students in our system, and listen to the proposed solutions and actions that arise from student organizing and activism. Often their perspective and opinions deepen the discussion adding depth and dimension. Ultimately, it’s a feedback mechanism that helps HPEDSB stay in touch with the users of the system and better serve their particular needs.
As stated on the HPEDSB website, involving students in board business is a valuable learning experience. Hearing from student trustees at Board meetings about student issues and opinions is a way to engage these leaders beyond their school community. They represent student opinions at the Board level and participate actively on committees.
“I was actually poking around and thinking that since the merger, this is the first time we’ve had a PECI student trustee and it’s about time,” trustee Kelly said. “And I think it’s really exciting because Jennifer Cobb and myself and trustees before us have been advocates for the county but when you don’t have that youth voice to add that extra layer of ‘here’s what’s happening south of the bridge’ you don’t have that opportunity.”
For these three students to apply for a student trustee spot on the board they had to send a one-page letter or 60-second video to Sean Monteith, Director of Education for HPEDSB saying why they were interested in being a student trustee. The deadline was May 25, 2020.
“I think it’s really exciting for Moira because now you have someone who lives and went through the elementary system in PEC and is now in high school in Belleville,” declared trustee Kelly. “So she really brings that rural, urban and of course indigenous voice which is fantastic. And I am so excited for Kayla Zachariah, I’m excited for all the students. The lawn signs for example, originated at PECI. So we already know there are leaders in that school and so being able to get one to the trustee table is very exciting.”
For more information please visit the HPEDSB website here www.hpedsb.on.ca