From student government to school board

Severna Park junior set for voting seat

March 24, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

After scaling the ranks of student government for the past three years, Alicia Pettit is ready for bigger things.

In a few months, the Severna Park High School junior is scheduled to take a seat on the Anne Arundel County school board as the student member -- with full voting privileges.

Pettit, 17, was elected to the position last week by middle and high school delegates to the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils (CRASC), the countywide student government group. The governor will make the final appointment but generally supports student picks.

"I really wanted to be able to make a difference and to have students' voices be heard," she said.

The county's school board is the only one in Maryland -- and one of two nationwide -- that gives full voting rights to its student member. California's state board of education follows the same policy, according to research by CRASC members.

On July 1, Pettit is scheduled to join the eight-member board, which has three at-large members and four members from General Assembly legislative districts.

"I'm going to make it my top priority," she said. "I'm anticipating learning so much, and I want to give it my all, so I can do the best job possible."

Pettit said that one of her concerns -- which she says is shared by many students -- is the recruitment and retention of teachers.

"It's become a big problem that needs to be changed," she said of the teacher shortage. "They're the ones giving us our education."

Because of the difficulty finding substitutes, Pettit said, teachers frequently have to give up planning time to cover other classes.

"The teachers aren't happy," she said. "And when teachers aren't happy, that's going to reflect on everyone's education."

Another issue for Pettit is what she sees as an overemphasis on statewide test performance at the middle school level.

"We're very much taught to the MSPAP [Maryland School Performance Assessment Program] test and functional test as opposed to learning the material properly," she said.

Pettit has been active in student government throughout high school. As a freshman, she was president of her class. She served as an SGA second vice president at Severna Park High School in her sophomore year, before becoming president this year.

Pettit is a member of the National Honor Society and Students Against Drunk Driving. She is an intern in the photojournalism department at the Naval Institute in Annapolis.

Pettit will replace Andy Smith, the current student board member. Smith said he had a long telephone conversation with Pettit this week about what to expect on the board.

Smith, a senior at Annapolis High School, said he told Pettit that it's important to visit schools and to talk to the staffs.

To help student board members, he's writing a guidebook.

"Coming into the position, I felt like I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked," Smith said. "I thought [the book] would be a way to hand over pearls of wisdom."

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