By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
State Rep. Adam Scanlon and a North Attleborough student have teamed up to file “Aidan’s Law,” a bill to improve student involvement in charter school government.
In a release sent last week, Scanlon told of how he was contacted by Aidan Prescott, a North Attleborough resident and junior at Foxboro Regional Charter School. Prescott said the process began with his curiosity to learn more about the school charter. He said the process was very difficult, and that if it can be changed at his school, it should be changed at others.
“I will dig into how the school runs and I’m thrown off the trail,” said Prescott of the difficult process of finding information.
Prescott doesn’t believe that the school is actively trying to limit student participation. He said the administrators for the elementary and middle school grades are open and helpful, and teachers support what he’s doing. But at the high school level, he’s found that same passion isn’t always there.
High School Principal Mike Cournoyer responded to an e-mail from The Reporter, but suggested speaking with Executive Director Dr. Luis Soria. Dr. Soria issued a statement saying that the students at the school are thoughtful, engaged young people with a vested interest in bettering their community, both within and outside of the school.
“Active engagement from our students has had a tremendous impact on our community, helping shape the school we are today,” wrote Dr. Soria.
What Aidan’s Law does
Aidan’s Law will establish Student Advisory Committees, consisting of five members elected by the student body, again a requirement in every other public school district. The members of the committee will then select a member by majority vote to serve as their chairperson for one year. This chairperson will act as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees may designate a student outreach coordinator to ensure the establishment of these committees in their charter schools.
As well as aiding in establishment, the student outreach coordinator will work with the chairperson of the Advisory Committee to inform them of the Board of Trustees agenda. Finally, every other month, during the months school is in session, the Student Advisory Committee will have a meeting with the Board of Trustees.
The school’s Board of Trustees meets on a weekly basis and these meetings are open to the public. Public comment is allowed, providing those wishing to speak fill out a Privilege of the Floor Form and submit it to the Office of the Executive Director by noon of the day prior to the board meeting. Prescott said that students have been attending board meetings and found that the issues taken up are the ones that the administration tells them to.
“The focus was not on the students,” said Prescott.
Dr. Soria wrote in his statement that the board is composed of a number of volunteers with diverse skill sets and experiences, a common occurrence at charter schools. This type of flexibility enables the board to be a reflection of the school’s unique needs, mission, and community.
“We are grateful for the many ways in which FRCS students continue to demonstrate investment in our school community and a shared commitment to the continued growth and improvement of our community each day,” Dr. Soria wrote.
In a statement from Scanlon’s office, Prescott wrote that those who spend their days on school grounds must adhere to the rules, and as such it’s important that they are able to voice their opinions and ensure their time is spent productively. Prescott has seen the positive impacts that student representation has had at other schools.
“As such, a bill ensuring that all students, regardless of what type of school they attend, can be heard is extremely important and, quite frankly, something we should have addressed a long time ago,” wrote Prescott.
Concerns with student representation
According to the statement from Scanlon’s office, there is no requirement for representation from students at a charter school, though it’s commonplace in other schools. North Attleborough’s School Committee includes three student representatives from the high school who speak at each meeting on upcoming events, issues facing their classmates, or significant news from the district.
Past discussions have been on the return to in-person learning and the ongoing effort to address mental health challenges. Prescott hopes to connect with those student representatives and learn more about their roles.
The executive director wrote in his statement that the voice of students is highly valued at FCRS, and many opportunities exist to actively partner with school leaders in decision-making. These include the Student Council, Student Advocacy Group, Executive Board, Advisory Classes, and Middle School Student Council.
FRCS has one Student Council for each grade in the high school, with an executive board composed of members from each of those grade-level councils. According to the school web site, being on the council provides “opportunities for more students to participate and gain knowledge and experience through these service and leadership positions.”
Recently, two members of the Class of 2022, Jade Moynihan and Kaitlyn Murphy, were elected to serve as the 2021-2022 President of the MASC Student Executive Board and 2021-2022 Secretary of the SEMASC Student Executive Board, respectively.
Prescott feels that the council’s role isn’t as strong it could be, which he said is disappointing. In speaking with its members, he has found that they are often times consulted just for matters like proms and other events.
“There was a revision to the student handbook and the students were never consulted,” said Prescott.