🏫 School Board Enthusiasts 🏫 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's Student Budget Meeting Blog
The Student Voice Team attended the student-oriented budget meetings held by Hamilton County Schools on February 25th and March 2nd. Our primary purpose for attendance was to advocate for equitable funding for afterschool and extracurricular programs in Hamilton County Schools.
The Feb 25th meeting had a very small number of students show up, one other student with the two from SVT. The second, March 2nd, meeting never even occurred as two of our students were waiting for the meeting to start for 45 minutes. The meeting started with a short introductory presentation by Dr. Johnson. The Superintendent sped through his slides but managed to convey information about past events and how they impacted HCDE, and how they handled it. The main focuses in this meeting were Future Ready Institutes (FRI), Accelerating Student Achievement, Great Teachers & Leaders, Engaging Communities, and Efficient & Effective Operations. To see the presentation in its entirety, click here. Overall, we were really glad to see that less time was spent focusing on accomplishments and leaving more time for student feedback.
Future Ready Institutes (FRI) have grown tremendously in schools over the past couple of years. More funding has gone into different schools to better programs. Eighth graders this year will have the chance to go to other high schools across the county depending on the career choice they want to pursue. Giving students these school choices with extensive programs is such a great way to introduce the basics of one’s career choice and hobbies. Hamilton County has even put more funding towards buses that can get students to and from the non-zoned schools they chose. Hixson High School has explicitly grown so much in our programs over the last couple of years. Hixson offers three pathways: medicine, business, and agriculture. I have been in the business pathway for three years now, and all I can say is that I love love love this program. Business is the one career that I’ve never steered away from, and this program has grown my passion for it even more.
“Accelerating Student Achievement” is an important (and extensive) section that mainly ties back to improving ELA instruction and exploring high-quality learning materials. You can refer back to this PDF for more information on their planning. I preferred discussing their future steps for improving achievement because it focuses more on personally helping the students themselves. They mentioned a few points to continue learning opportunities throughout the summer, keeping and enhancing HCS-at-home as a remote learning option for future school years, and emphasizing social-emotional learning (called SEL). I appreciate that they are considering more ways that they can expand on student learning and opportunities to accelerate. Still, I wish that they would consider other aspects of student life as well. The main suggestion that Saheli and I brought to this meeting was to provide additional and equitable funding for after-school and extracurricular activities and make sure that students who wouldn’t usually afford the fees could still participate. I am immensely grateful for the past extracurricular experiences I have, which have helped to build my real-world knowledge and leadership skills. However, I know that other students have been held back from similar opportunities because of expenses or transportation. I wish that these experiences became more of a focal point and would become more widely available to all students.
The focus area “Great Teachers and Leaders” doesn’t quite apply to us as students because they seemed more concerned about the hiring process, retention rates, and recruiting “top talent.” While I’m glad that they are focusing on the teachers, who need respect and recognition after such a trying year, I wish that they would put an equal emphasis on teacher mental health and professional development. I don’t mean to discount retention rates or hiring processes because they are significant, but teachers are humans too. It seems like everyone focuses on helping students’ mental health and pushing them forward in life, but teachers deserve the same treatment. I want the best for my instructors and them to be treated with the consideration they deserve.
In the focus area “Engaged Communities,” HCS wants to promote communication and positive cultures between students, staff, and families. I appreciate that they are still focusing on these relationships, especially with the pandemic’s difficulties. The first time I noticed significant engagements between HCS and the community was right after the Easter tornadoes of 2020. They quickly responded to the community’s needs and set up Tornado Relief Supply Centers to help the families of students and staff in need of assistance. They were dedicated to assisting the citizen’s specific needs and now continue to empower the community in the decision-making process. This student budget meeting that Saheli and I participated in is proof that they really do prioritize Engaged Communities and care about what students (and others) have to say.
Hamilton County, all in all, has used its funds for effective and efficient operations such as secure entrances, Classlink, external facility improvement, and new buses. Classlink is a website that makes school websites easier to log in to; it is all in one place for easy access. These are some of the examples of where the funding has gone. I think these were vital operations that needed funding and time. These little things can improve schools, and I appreciate that Hamilton County is looking into the little things to improve our schools.
All in all, the meeting had a pleasant, conversational atmosphere, and I enjoyed participating. I hope that next year, they continue with Student Budget Meetings, and continue to take our opinions into consideration.A student perspective is crucial, especially since the entire education system is geared towards students. The Board will continue discussing the proposed budget for the next few weeks to ensure that everything is correct. Their final vote is held on Thursday, April 15th, so submit to this google form soon if you have any feedback. And if you want additional information about the budget or focus areas, you can look at this PDF.