Zimmer introducing plan to give students a role with school board
Michael Janofsky | March 3, 2014
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Fresh off his (unsuccessful) effort to get a District 1 voice onto the LA Unified school board right away, trustee Steve Zimmer is returning to the monthly board meeting tomorrow with a plan that would lead to another voice with influence on the board:
Zimmer is introducing a measure — the Student Engagement and Empowerment Resolution of 2014 — that would create a student advisory member of the school board, a “student congress” made up of two representatives from each district high school, and from that, a student from each of the board’s seven districts to serve as liaisons between the congress and the school board.
The program, starting as a pilot in 2014-2015, would also create a district-wide curriculum for high schools using the televised board meetings as a “teaching tool” to increase student involvement with board actions and draw district students closer to issues that bear directly on them.
As his motion says, the student congress and student board member would be “embraced by the Board to bring a new level of legitimacy, accountability, and transparency to policy decisions enacted” by the board, starting with the spring semester of 2015.
“I’ve always believed in student empowerment,” Zimmer said in an interview with LA School Report. “The lack of an authentic student voice is something I have always felt obligated to address.”
Zimmer said adding a student dimension to board activities would have minimal budgetary and bureaucratic impact. Rather, he said, the educational benefits would far outweigh any inconvenience of development by adding a student perspective to issues contemplated by the board.
He also envisions the process becoming part of the new Common Core curriculum through a partnership with local universities and KLCS to bring the televised board meetings into high school classrooms.
Zimmer says in his proposal that other states and California school districts, as well as institutions of higher learning, have opened their education decision-making process to include a student voice.
“In a district as large as LAUSD, we don’t get nearly enough student representation at the board,” he said. “We have to have a way of creating greater awareness, empowerment and active civic engagement for students, and that’s what this seeks to do.”
As for that vacant District 1 seat, with the special election campaign now underway and the the board’s position on a caretaker clear — no — the six members will consider approval of Sylvia Rousseau in a new, paid position of “Liaison to Board District 1,” effective March 5.
In such a newly-created and temporary position, Rousseau would give Superintendent John Deasy and the board “reports on all issues relevant” to the school district once represented by the late Marguerite LaMotte, who died in office last year.
Rousseau is a professor of clinical education and urban scholar for the USC Rossier School of Education.