George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Voice

The Site Council: Empowering Students Through School Governance

Students have the majority vote on deciding school policy.
This is part of a series that features key practices from Pittsfield Middle High School in New Hampshire.
View a transcript of this video

Derek: The high school was underperforming according to the State's measures. We were the fifth lowest performing high school in New Hampshire.

Student: A con is some students will not be happy that their freedom will be taken away.

Derek: We wanted our students to take more ownership for the operation of the school.

Student: A pro would be that the grades that they're expecting is reasonable.

Derek: And so we began to develop plans for a Site Council to increase student engagement.

Tucker: Anybody got anything else they want to add, pro, con?

Tucker: At this time, I can entertain a motion. All in favor.

Derek: Student voice was a key part of rethinking what equity among our students looked like. And how they may have control. We bring together this group of key stakeholders to be a part in that decision-making process.

Teacher: There's going to be a limit on the amount of credits that could be earned.

Derek: Including the overall course grade.

Derek: Surveys have been sent out via email.

Teacher: I don't really care about that part as much.

Tucker: Site Council is the governing body of the school. We're responsible for making any changes to do with student procedures, policies that aren't governed by State or School board law.

Derek: Site Council's made decisions regarding the dress code, open campus, grades and grading policy, the class schedule.

Derek: You know, with somebody, I'll do the pros list if one of the students wants to do the cons, I'm happy to help.

Teacher: If you don't have a passing grade in the class, should you be allowed open campus, was the question we were--?

Colby: We went over the current policy using feedback that we came up with.

Teacher: We put out a form for some data.

Colby: In such a small environment like this, actually having a voice, and getting opinions from everyone in the school, it's pretty cool to be a part of that.

Derek: What was the student consensus?

Colby: The students that I talked to would agree that course grading would be-- should be-- and hopefully will be a factor.

Savannah: Most students in the class, they have very loud opinions, but they won't tend to share it with the rest of the school.

Savannah: Students have to be passing their classes with a 2.5 or higher. I think that could be factored in as well.

Tucker: I think that's a great idea.

Savannah: So I figured that the students could come to me, so I can get their opinion. And when I vote it's not just my opinion. It's my entire class'.

Colby: Especially when they start taking--

Student: All of your overall classes of the 2.5.

Derek: Through the discussions that we're able to have here, we not only identified that there needed to be a change, but the Council really was the voice for making that change.

Colby: At Site Council, me and Miss Massey brought up a proposal--

Tucker: After we make the decision with the Council, we go back to class meetings. Definitely seems to work and get information out pretty well.

Student: Will this go into effect next year, or is it happening this year?

Tucker: I like being able to work with teachers, work with peers.

Colby: Any other questions?

Tucker: It's just easy to voice input and have somebody listen.

Student: Kind of rewards the people who really did that extra mile to try hard.

Tucker: Yep. 

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K.Petty's picture

Giving students a voice is important. I'd love to know of other schools that have implemented this or similar programs. We are implementing this model soon and would like our students to have the opportunity to interview (by Skype) some students involved in a successfully functioning site council. Anyone interested?

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