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Shaping Schools: Supporting Student Suggestions

Anika Patel
Senior- Jennifer Rajesh

Student Board Representative? What is this position?

This school year, the student board representative position was reinstated after it stopped due to COVID-19. The position was reinstated to gain a broad perspective of the students not only at the high school but throughout the whole district. Senior Jennifer Rajesh took on the role of voicing students’ opinions, experiences, and struggles.  She has been in this position since April 2023.

Rajesh has been responsible for various tasks in her role, but she has found the advisory board meetings organized by Superintendent Benjamin Mainka to have a particularly strong impact on her. The advisory boards consist of a group of high school, middle school, and Meadows students sharing their opinions on issues within the district that have impacted them on a different level. These students are selected through a recommendation process where teachers provide their input on which students they believe will share their true opinions and ideas on activities or aspects of their school that they would like to see improved.

” I think going to those meetings, writing down what they say, and taking a few main points to share at school board meetings was really helpful because it gave board members direct feedback that the students give. I didn’t adjust anything the students gave, I just took the ideas and summarized them so it was really like the students’ voices were being heard at the meetings,” Rajesh said. “They’ve done a really nice job of selecting people because all of the students come from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups, so you get the perspective of so many different kinds of people. They all have different experiences, so it’s really nice to hear unique voices and hear what they all have to say.”

Rajesh shared how flexibility was a big part of this position. These advisory board meetings took place at varying times throughout the day. In addition to attending the high school advisory board meetings, she also felt it was important for her to hear the middle school and Meadows students’ meetings, so she would personally drive and attend meetings happening in different schools within the district.

As for some of the major impacts this role created, the view of Superintendent Mainka became extremely positive through the opportunity he gave students to openly express their concerns, engage in meaningful dialogue, and foster a sense of trust and collaboration between students and the superintendent. Along with providing student opinions to the school board, the advisory board meetings offered a chance for students to get to know their superintendent and have meaningful conversations with him about areas of improvement for our district.

“I think there is stigma around the superintendent, like he’s super strict, and you wouldn’t want to say anything bad about the schools when you’re around him.He’s actually really nice and always open to hearing feedback. The biggest thing is that he actually does take student opinions into account and he will change it,” Rajesh said.

Another impact was the changes influenced by student opinions. Rajesh shared how there were issues with the water fountains in the middle school and the bathrooms in the high school. These issues were fixed because students at the advisory board meetings brought attention to the issues and provided their feedback and opinions on what was going on.

With Rajesh being a senior and someone new having to take on this position for next year, she reflected on some of the reasons why she applied and gave insight as to what she wants for the future of this position in the coming years.

“I’m really glad I got this opportunity because a lot of the students in other schools are really nice and I loved getting to know them. I also love working with kids and this position involved a lot of that. I was inspired by this position and hope in the future I can serve in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). I would definitely like to see someone who has time because this position does take a lot of flexibility and time. I also hope the new representative truly talks with the kids at advisory board meetings because they’re really cool and they have a lot to say, so listen.”

The future of Novi schools lies not only in the hands of our school board but also its students. The actions taken by the school board affect us on a day-to-day basis, and this position highlights the importance of acting on the student’s behalf and providing perspectives from our generation of leaders.

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About the Contributor
Anika Patel
Anika Patel, Staff Writer
Anika Patel is a sophomore at Novi High School, and this is her first year on the staff. Anika enjoys hanging out with friends, trying new foods and finding tv shows to binge. She loves the beach and can’t wait for summer. She is really excited to share your stories! Contact her at [email protected] with any ideas!
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