Federal Way school board votes to have student representation at meetings

Students will have a seat at the proverbial school board table come September.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Federal Way Public Schools board of directors approved having scholar representation at board meetings beginning this fall.

“The purpose of students on the board will be to provide valuable input on school district operations, which is an area the superintendent as CEO is held responsible for under the policy governance model,” School district spokeswoman Kassie Swenson said. “Their role will not be to vote or approve board agenda items, which include policy and budgets.”

In a presentation by three members of the Student Advisory to the Superintendent, Federal Way High School’s Kaviah Misaalefua and Kaleigha Lang and Federal Way Public Academy’s Mikayla Reedy explained to board members Tuesday the vision behind the recommendation and the selection process for the board.

On a rotating semester basis, students will submit applications to the Student Advisory to the Superintendent team, who will then narrow the pool to six. Those three middle and three high school students will then be interviewed by the school board and three members of the student advisory team. Two students, one each from a middle and high school will then be selected. Their duties will include attending board meetings to offer student voice on district policies.

“I have to tell you, this has been three years in the making,” board President Geoffery McAnalloy said at the board meeting Tuesday. “There’s several of us that have been talking about this for three years, and I’m elated that we are at this point tonight.”

Of the 295 school boards in Washington state, Michael Wilson with the Washington State School Directors’ Association, said having student representation on school boards is a model growing in popularity. The association didn’t have raw data on how many school boards have representation, but Wilson said approximately 80 students who are on school boards attended the association’s annual conference. That number, however, may be higher because not all school boards had representatives at the conference.

“In Federal Way Public Schools, incorporating student voice is central to informing the work of serving each of our 23,000 student-scholars,” Swenson said. “The presence of scholars on the school board who also serve on the Student Advisory to the Superintendent team will be responsible for obtaining input and providing feedback to the student advisory to ensure the voices of our schools are represented.”

Students who are interested in applying must have a current semester 3.0 GPA or above, must provide a recommendation from a teacher and one from a community member or mentor, and must be willing to dedicate time each month to attending school board meetings between the hours of 5:45-7:45 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

The district expects to distribute applications in the next few weeks, with interviews set for early June. The students chosen will make their first appearance on the board at the Sept. 1 meeting.