Five months after Anthony Cruz stood before the Valley Stream Central High School District Board of Education advocating for the creation of a student liaison position to the board, members voted their agreement on June 12.
“This is an example of people coming to the board, the board expressing an interest, the board studying that interest, and it eventually becoming a policy,” Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said after the members of the board of trustees adopted the position.
Under the policy, the student representative — a senior in good academic standing — will be chosen by members of the high school’s student council and the 12th-grade council. The position starts in September, with a senior from Central High School. The following school year, the position will rotate to a senior from North High School, followed the year after by a senior from South High School.
The student representative will receive a nameplate and all the materials that other board members are given, but will not be privy to information about contracts and will not vote on resolutions. Cruz, who will be a Central High School senior next year, said that a nonvoting position will still help students.
“Right now, many students in Valley Stream and the country feel frustrated with the way things are and don’t know how to transfer that passion into something that can be of benefit to themselves and to the community,” Cruz said. “But with a small action, like having a student on the board, it’s one more step toward young people having a bigger voice in what goes on.”
He presented these arguments at a Board of Education meeting in January, when he handed the board a petition with more than 400 signatures advocating for student representation on the board. Members of the policy committee then looked at applicable laws and other districts’ policies before they adopted the proposal.
“Everyone thought it was a good idea,” Heidenreich said. “Whenever we have student voices, it helps us and enhances the work we do.”
The move came before two other students, Aman Islam and Kaitlyn Gavin, said the board should listen to students’ concerns about school security. “We, as students, understand what needs to be done because we’re the ones that would feel the repercussions,” Gavin said.
Gavin and Islam then presented the board with a petition outlining how the district could increase security. The petition had 103 signatures, mainly from District 13. Among the signatories were South High School students and parents of students at North High School.
It called for:
Increased communication between parents and students.
A strengthened relationship between school officials and the police department.
A plan to have more frequent lockdown drills, with local police officers monitoring the procedures.
A plan to have police drive by the schools more often.
The creation of cost-effective and feasible school safety initiatives.
Listening sessions with students.
The creation of a Security Department at the schools.
Islam said that he started the petition to ensure that Valley Stream CHSD schools were prepared if a school shooting occured. “I don’t think they have the resources currently to prevent people from coming in,” he said, adding that Central High School should have identification scanners like the ones in Memorial Junior High School.
Islam also said that he would like police to visit the schools to help instill peace of mind in the students, and that having a student representative on the board would help. “I think it will help because we need a student perspective,” he said.
Board of Education President Bill Stris and Heidenreich said that the district was already working to increase security. Stris noted that the district installed the Rave application, which alerts police to emergencies; and it is installing vestibules to prevent outsiders from entering buildings before their identifications are scanned and compared with police databases.
Heidenreich also said that Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder mandated that police officers stop by schools when on patrol.
“It’s a petition that supports what we’re doing,”
The student representative for the 2018-19 year will be named at a later meeting, Heidenreich said — most likely in September.