By: Matthew Eng
Student representation is a topic we don’t really talk a lot about at d.tech. Despite so many changes happening around us, many of us have never really stopped to ask, ”Who exactly is representing us?” Even worse, some students believe that we have no voice at all, and that the administration makes changes without considering how students feel. That is simply not the case. While there definitely is a lack of student representation in some decisions, that doesn’t mean that there’s none. Student input is still heard through the student representative on the d.tech board.
Senior Natalie Cheyette is the current student representative on the d.tech board. The board consists of six members with exceptional experience in their roles who vote on issues such as the budget, enrollment, and policy. Cheyette gives a student report about how students are feeling regarding changes at d.tech and weighs in on issues that affect the student body. Cheyette is there to, as she describes it, “remind them that there are students that exist in the school.” While Cheyette doesn’t get to vote, she still has a say in most decisions the board makes. In addition to the board, Cheyette works with Dr. Montgomery and two other representatives. Similarly, these representatives, including Dr. Montgomery, don’t get to vote but can interject if they deem it necessary.
Cheyette has spoken up on a number of occasions. One includes a decision regarding whether or not students’ siblings should be given preference when applying to d.tech. Cheyette said that “Students’ siblings have a bit of a closer view of the school than another student might have. They might have these really great ideas about going to the school or ambitions for it, and so if they don’t get in, then going to a different school might seem like a pretty big letdown to them.”
Another issue Cheyette spoke up on was student behavior. Last year, there were quite a few concerns regarding student behavior, especially with some of the freshmen. When this issue came up, Cheyette told the board about her experience interviewing a freshman for a Design Lab project. She said that she was talking to the freshman and “They said ‘You know, we’re all in the same boat here. We’re just trying to figure out how the school works.’” Cheyette told me that she really related to this because “That’s kind of how the first class felt in the hallway too.” Despite not having a vote, Cheyette still plays a major role on the board.
However, the board only deals with certain issues, such as the aforementioned enrollment and policy, not decisions handled by administration such as the change from Buzz LMS to Powerschool. The board’s main responsibility regarding these types of changes is to approve the budget for them and ensure that they comply with district code. In addition, unlike with board decisions where is able to weigh in on decisions as they are being reviewed, by the time a change reaches the board, work on designing and implementing the change will have already begun. Unable to immediately represent the student voice, Cheyette can often only give her opinion after the change has taken place or implementation has already advanced to the final stages. Even if the board did block an unfavorable change the administration made, the work and time spent on designing that change would still have been wasted. Since the board only meets once a month, that’s a lot of potential for wasted time and effort that could be used on much more effective solutions. This is not the case with board decisions. Natalie gets to weigh in on board decisions as they’re being suggested which prevents the same effect from occurring.
At the moment, there is no student representative for decisions made by administration. Dr. Montgomery said that he “wouldn’t be opposed to [the idea]” but that they “haven’t really had the time to think through it”. Dr. Montgomery suggested a “hybrid” system where students elect three potential representatives. From those three, the administration would select a candidate they deem to be best suited for the position. Dr. Montgomery explained that this would create a balance: “There’s some student voice and then… the leadership team has the final say.” This solves the potential issue of the election for student representative becoming a popularity contest. The position does not exist yet, but with enough support from the student body, it could become a reality.
Student representation is a very important part of the decision-making at d.tech but it is still lacking in some areas. Currently, the only form of official student representation at d.tech is the position of student representative on the board. There is the possibility of more student representatives being established but it would require student involvement. If the student body desires a stronger student voice in decisions, they will have to speak up. Whether or not that becomes a reality is yet to be seen.