Dist. 203 board looking to add more student voice to meetings

The Naperville Unit District 203 school board is taking steps to add more student voices to its meetings.

Officials on Monday recommended expanding the district's program of having student representatives from Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools participate in board meetings.

Students still wouldn't be allowed to vote on agenda issues or attend closed-session meetings. But additional junior and senior students from each high school would be part of a rotation attending public meetings in an advisory role. Starting in September, they'd provide reports on their respective schools and potentially participate in board discussions.

"A focus on student voice and belonging have always been a priority for this board," said District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges. "It's become a greater priority, especially in recent years. We believe this recommendation is a powerful response to that."

Bridges said adding students as board representatives would honor the diversity of the student body and student experience. It would be a way, Bridges said, to gain the perspective of more students with different experiences.

While details need to be finalized, Chala Holland, an assistant superintendent in the district, said the plan would feature three student representatives from each high school appearing throughout the school year. In recent years, one student from each high school served as a board ambassador for the entire school year.

Holland said additional responsibilities would be placed on the representatives, such as meeting collectively and attending meetings between principals and student groups. The ambassadors may overlap their duties with the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council, which debuted in the 2022-23 school year.

The process of selecting the board ambassadors hasn't been finalized, Holland said, but students may be drawn from the more diverse student groups. Input from the principals also would be relied upon.

"Part of the vision is to gather as many perspectives as possible," Holland said. "We've been having a wide range of conversations about how to draw in students who you may not hear from or see ever and give them this leadership opportunity as well."

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