Listening to student voices
Two new student representatives take their seats on the Marion County School Board.
File photo: Meeting of the Marion County Public School Board in Ocala on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
Two new student representatives have joined the Marion County School Board for the second quarter of the academic year.
Seniors Bryce Mctier from North Marion High School and Olivia Bittinger from Dunnellon High School were selected to represent their schools and the students of the district. They supersede former representatives Kaitlyn Koviack from West Port High School and Genesis Muniz Rosado from Belleview High School, who were the first students selected after the district decided to start including students on the board for the 2023-24 year.
The last meeting for the first-quarter members was Oct. 10. The second-quarter members attended their first board meeting on Oct. 24.
School Board Chair Allison Campbell said the parameters for adding representatives were partially modeled after Martin County’s student members of the board. Martin County has one representative from each high school who serves for a yearlong term.
Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) rotates two students from its eight high schools, juniors or seniors, each quarter of the school year. The students are selected by their school’s principal and join the board every Tuesday evening for its regular meeting.
MCPS spokesperson Kevin Christian said the students are chosen based on their “leadership, service and excellence.” This includes a leadership position in school activities, community service or tutoring, and a high grade point average with accelerated classes.
Selecting two representatives instead of one was a board decision, opening the opportunity to more students and allowing them to share at a greater capacity during board comments.
“Just having their perspective while we are making decisions for the board that will directly impact them has brought significant insight to us just in the short time that they have been there,” Campbell said. “They have been able to weigh in on multiple situations that have come up.”
The board began with a pair of students in August, who recently finished their quarter with the board. Campbell said there were no expectations set for what was required prior to the representatives’ first meeting. She said it was a learning curve for the students, who received training lessons after that session.
Christian shared the responses the students submitted after they were selected to be representatives. Koviack said, “I feel strongly about representing my student body and am extremely grateful for this opportunity to work alongside the school board.”
“I’m extremely excited to be representing my school,” Rosado said. “Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity.”
Campbell noted that the new members should be able to pick up some pointers from their predecessors.
“Now that we have had student representatives on the board, I hope that the new ones coming on are able to have seen how these students have done such a fine job,” Campbell said.
After the agenda items were reviewed during the Oct. 24 meeting, Campbell gave the incoming students time to comment. Bittinger said, “It’s really nice to see that we are outreaching to those farther parts of Marion County and trying to get out there.”
Mctier added that the funding provisions noted in the session would benefit students’ education and futures.
“It felt to me that we were closer to students,” Campbell said. “Our vision is that every student succeeds and we as a school board are trying to ensure that we are putting students first in all of our decisions and having students right there with us at all times keeps that focus front and center.”