Earlier this week, the Statesman reported on Trustee Rajbhandari’s relocation to North Carolina for college. During his election, Rajbhandari promised that he would serve the entire length of his term unless he could establish a student position on the Board, but the Board refused to consider any of the proposals he brought forward, which had been written with input from several members of our committee. Thus, he is staying on the Board. In response to the article, Board President Dave Wagers pointed to the Student Advisory Committee for how the district receives student input. As former members of that committee, we know that’s not the case.
When the Boise School District appointed us to their all-new Student Advisory Committee, we were hopeful that students might finally be allowed to participate in the decision-making process. The formation of the committee had been on the front news of the Statesman. Trustee Rajbhandari, a Boise High senior, had just been elected to the School Board. It seemed like the tide was turning towards student agency and voice in our schools.
The first SAC meeting was in October. It was a group of 15 students (three from each high school) ranging from 10th to 12th grade. After a tour of the district office, we met with the staff and the three trustees who would attend our meetings and report back to the Board. “What do you want this committee to consider this school year?” they asked. Excited, we listed 12 challenges, including sustainability in schools, diversity of curriculum literature, and class rank. However, we soon learned the Board had an agenda for us from the start. That same day, we received a 30-minute presentation about the district’s real motive for establishing our committee — public relations.
The Student Advisory Committee met three more times that year. We toured Boise High, discussed the proposed dress code changes, and took photos. We never addressed the issues we’d identified at the beginning of the year.
SAC was created after a student applied for an open seat on the board in 2021 as a scapegoat to ignore that student’s concerns. SAC members are appointed by principals, not elected by students, so most of the students, perhaps not unlike some members of the school board, are there for the resume-building opportunity and have no agenda to better Boise schools. Others, like ourselves, were ready to put in extra time if it meant the Board would address specific issues, but there was no opportunity to do that.
As it stands, the SAC is not accountable to students, and the board is not responsible to the SAC. This is fundamentally flawed. The only way to implement long-lasting change is to have an elected student on the board. The student would act as an essential piece for the SAC to be both successful and relevant while holding the other elected Trustees accountable to students.
Several school districts nationwide have similar committees that give real input to the school board. But that is only possible with a student representative elected by the student body who serves on the school board. Hundreds of school boards nationwide have student representatives serving on the dais, which was affirmed by Boise’s voters in the election last September. There is no one better than a student to help the Board understand how we can put our education on the right path to a better future.
Why is the Boise School Board so afraid of the students it allegedly serves? We urge you to contact the board at [email protected] and ask them yourself.