Mount Airy City Schools’ Board of Education welcomed two new members last week.
No, there was not a secret election, nor a coup to take over two of the boards. The two are Mount Airy High School students, who have been selected to be advisory members for the board.
Mount Airy High School senior Morgan Hiatt and junior Isabella McMillian joined the board Feb. 15 as student representatives to the board. While not actual school board members, with no voting ability, the two are scheduled to attend one school board meeting per month through the end of the school year, offering their perspective as students to discussions among the board.
“Just having their perspective, their voice, is a wonderful idea,” said Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison. “They are a wonderful resource.”
The two were chosen from among seven applicants who expressed interest in the two positions when Morrison and the board announced their creation in October. The formal application process began in December, with each of the seven students submitting their applications
For their part, both Morgan and Isabella seemed to be excited they were chosen for the posts.
“I am so excited to be joining the board of education this semester,” Isabella said. “I was interested in this position because it is an opportunity to be able to make an impact on things that really matter in our community. I’m excited to learn about how important decisions are made in our schools and how we as students can be a part of them.”
Morgan said she wanted to be a representative to the board for two reasons: “I strive to learn and help those around me and be involved in my community.”
The idea for having student representatives came from board member Ben Cooke, although he was quick to say it was learning that the Watauga County school system had such a program which piqued his interest.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Cooke said, adding the students can give the board fresh insight into what it is like to be in the schools every day. “We’re not in the school all day long, we’re part of the older population. The students are living it, they are there every day. They just have a whole different perspective.”
Before implementing the program, Morrison said she spoke with the superintendent in Watauga County about their program.
“He said it’s been a wonderful thing for their board,” she said.
“You’re always training the kids in local government, elected positions. This lets them see what the Board of Education does, how they arrive at their decisions…these two ladies are fantastic, they represent the school well, have seen it long enough to see premasking and masking…”
Already, they have been able to give the city school board members some food for thought. Morrison said at the first meeting with the two, Feb. 15, the school board discussed changing the masking policy in city schools.
“It was nice to see my teacher’s faces,” Isabella told the board. Then it dawned on everyone — the mask policy has been in place nearly two years, and there are some students at the school who have never seen their teachers’ faces without masks.
During the discussions, the board asked Morgan, the senior, how she thought participation might run with a mask optional policy — she told the board she felt like 60% to 80% of the students would probably continue wearing masks, at least for a while.
Morrison said she wasn’t sure how the students would initially react to the opportunity.
“I didn’t know if they would be bored, they were like ‘This is so exciting.’” She thinks in successive years the number of students applying for the positions might vary.
“This will be good for students who are interested in public service, government. Not everyone wants to sit through a school board meeting. If they are interested in going into government, public service, even education, it’s interesting to see what the board does, how they work through issues.”
Morrison said the students will only attend the business meeting, and will not participate in closed sessions or work sessions.
“I look forward to hearing from these students every month,” Cooke said. “I think it’s going to be really neat to see what they bring to us. I think it’s going to make the board more aware of what all is going on in the schools.“