The newest and, by far, youngest member of the Cheektowaga Central School Board Monday night dropped a proposal to put a non-voting student trustee to the board after the idea drew little support.
Other officials suggested several ways to improve communications and understanding between the board and students, and David J. Martin Jr., 22, said he's willing to give them a shot. If those ideas don't work out, Martin said he may bring up his student trustee proposal again next year.
"My main theme was to get students involved," Martin told his colleagues. "If (other ideas) achieve interaction with the whole student body of 2,000, that's better than having just one (student) trustee," he said.
"You've started us on a path that's long overdue and I thank you for that," School Superintendent Leslie B. Lewis told the newcomer, who was elected in May.
Martin envisioned students selecting one of their own to add perspective to board discussions on matters affecting students.
Some of the nation's school boards have student members, although none are local, Martin said.
Only one Cheektowaga Central trustee, Diane Panasiewicz, voiced some support for Martin's idea Monday night. Although she said she wasn't sure if students even want representation on the School Board, Ms. Panasiewicz said she was "willing to give it a try, although there would be a lot to work out ahead of time."
Trustee Richard D. Jachimiak suggested the board make it a practice to get student feedback on certain topics, invite class officers to board meetings, and take turns attending meetings of the student council and various clubs.
Trustee Jane P. Okun questioned how a student trustee unable to vote or see confidential information could be worthwhile. She said she would be willing to represent the board at student council meetings.
School Superintendent Leslie B. Lewis said his problem with Martin's idea was that a student trustee would be likely to be a top student and class officer who might see things from a different perspective than their classmates. The board "needs to be sure it reaches out" to the student grass roots as well as the leadership "so that we're hearing from everybody," Lewis said.
For example, Lewis said board members and administrators could "invite randomly selected kids to lunch to talk." Or, the board could take a page from a period in the late 1970s or early 1980s when an occasional daytime board meeting let students see firsthand how the district was run, Lewis said.
"I just remember it was a lot of fun and that it helped," recalled Lewis, a principal at the time. "It's a great idea. I'd be very interested in trying something like that," Jachimiak responded.
Lewis added, "As far as the kids not being heard, believe me, the kids are heard. I've still got the scars . . . from that proposal to change (school) starting times," Lewis grinned.