Student Representation on the BOE: A Spotlight on Our Student Liaisons

Sophie Halliburton, Managing Editor

The Board of Education is involved in some of the most crucial decision-making for both the Hastings schools and the town as a whole, but who is there to represent the student body? Gus Renzin, a senior at Hastings High School, as well as Elianna Carvalho, a junior, are the official liaisons to the Board and play a vital role in making sure student voices are heard and play into broader decisions for the school district. 

Gus explained how “since we’re sort of on the receiving end of every single decision that the [Board] makes, it’s important that we have a say in those decisions” and that all students are “understanding how our school culture and environment is being formed.” As student representatives, Elianna and Gus are responsible for “giv[ing] updates to the Board, answer[ing] questions, and inform[ing] them about what’s going on in the student body,” and essentially acting as “the eyes and ears” for the high school. 

In a typical meeting, Elianna explained that they initially “just give a basic report of anything that is happening in the school,” whether that be recent club projects, updates on sports or theater productions, and any district-wide events that may be happening. 

“I think our reports are really important in terms of informing the Board about the district’s priorities from the bottom up–looking at where students are excited and where there’s a lot of participation,” Gus expressed. 

To illustrate how their reports then factor into the Board’s decision-making process, Gus highlighted the Project Share Thanksgiving Dinner. Considering the remarkable turnout of over 200 students, Gus hopes that when such an event is reported to the Board, they “hopefully internalize that and realize that this is a commitment that our district has and that we care about community service.” He also explained that he believes it is crucial to bring up the college application process to help the Board understand where seniors find themselves needing help:  “I try and make sure that every time we [talk] about college applications we bring up how fantastic the guidance department is, so then, hopefully, when [the Board] is in the budgeting process, they make sure that enough funds go to the Guidance Department to ensure that they have the resources they need to help us.” 

A particular area of focus for the Board currently is surrounding the Portrait of a Hastings Learner Project. The goal of this project is to construct and understand the ideal Hastings student in hopes to reflect those values within the school environment. Gus, who is also one of the student representatives on the POHL team, explained how “the [team] created a document outlining our values as a district with the idea of ‘what kind of students do we want to be producing and fostering?’” At this point in the project, the Board is “finalizing the draft and creating action steps to figure out what concrete things can be done to achieve this broad vision that was laid out by the portrait.” As much as the Board and POHL Team is working from the top down to attempt to create the ideal learner, Gus believes that he and Elianna’s “report[s] [are] one of the most important ways that information is trickling up” to benefit the ultimate goal of this project.