Advisory panel gives students a voice with administration

Program aims to involve students in crucial decisions.


File photo

Student input is invaluable. As the ones who experience the school social culture, follow its newly implemented rules and must adapt to controversial administrative policies, their voices are needed to better the school community. Allowing students a voice in the place specifically designed to prepare for their future success should be a no-brainer. And for assistant principals Kimberly Westervelt and Juliann Hoebee, it was. 

At the end of the 2021-22 school year, after many meetings with the staff Social Justice and staff Culture and Climate committees, Westervelt and Hoebee knew something was missing. 

“We talk a lot about what students need and want, [and] we just really want to make sure we have the student voice in that discussion,” Westervelt said. “We [wanted] more student perspective with regards to social justice issues and concerns to the school.” 

Greatly valuing the impact student voice could have, they gathered 21 teacher-recommended students to form a new Student Advisory Panel. The panel has morphed into a student version of both the staff Social Justice and Climate and Culture committees and meets once a month to discuss school improvements. 

“[Students] are the reason we come to work everyday to make it a good, healthy, productive environment so that kids can learn and socialize and have new experiences,” Hoebee said. “We can’t do that without their perspective. We think we know, but it’s better to hear it specifically from the students themselves.”

This school year, the panel has focused on the area that they felt most lacking: communication between students and teachers, students and administrators and even students themselves. 

The panel has had monthly discussions with staff and the class councils to decide the best way to improve school communication. They have created more avenues of communication for students, and are working to implement marking period grade meetings, announcements in Google Classroom streams and have shared their own ideas to the administration. 

Acknowledging the need for student input beyond just their own, the panel initiated the idea for a schoolwide Google Form in which students can submit constructive feedback straight to other students, who can then bring the issues to advisors and administrators. 

The panel gives students the opportunity to work alongside administrators, let their input be heard and aim to create real change that will impact the school.

“The students have been really instrumental in giving us the feedback from their perspective of where they feel where we are lacking in some areas and where we can improve,” Westervelt said. 

Westervelt and Hoebee said they are proud of the work they have done and hope to continue the strong program, bringing in new nominated freshmen in the fall school year.

“As the group of students in the school changes, so does our student advisory panel,” Westervelt said. “We are looking forward to what the students say and how it grows and changes.”