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First student representative to School Board sets standard high

BROOKSVILLE — School Board member Matt Foreman had just panned the idea of a high-stakes standardized testing resolution at the most recent school meeting, saying it wouldn't force action. That he didn't know if it would do any good. That it was symbolic.

Then Tori Selby spoke up.

"As student representative," she said into the microphone, eyes trained on Foreman, "I would urge you to pass the resolution."

"Whether or not it would change their (state officials') minds, whether it would do anything symbolically or not, I think it's important that the students of Hernando County know that the School Board is in agreement with them about high-stakes tests and the FCAT."

Foreman responded — but so did Selby.

"I'm just saying that I think maybe one person who is under the age of 18 watches the School Board meetings," she said. "You guys are the bad guys a lot of the time, and to pass a resolution saying that you're backing them up and you're trying to help them, fight for them, then I think that it would behoove you."

That's Tori.

The School Board's first student representative. The 18-year-old who speaks up for students. The new Springstead High School graduate not afraid to share her opinions.

Tuesday was her last board meeting.

• • •

Selby will attend the University of Florida, majoring in history and political science.

She's got a leg up already — she has an associate's degree through Pasco-Hernando Community College.

Since her sophomore year, she has taken four eight-week summer courses at the college.

"This is the first summer I've had to myself," she said.

Something like that.

She's working 30 hours a week at Hardee's and interning with a campaign.

"I enjoy being busy and making a difference somehow," she said. "I don't like idleness."

• • •

It shouldn't be a surprise that Selby is considering a future in politics.

But it wasn't always that way.

Until this year, she was leaning toward teaching history. That changed as her role on the board grew.

"I was really interested in what went on this year with the politics," she said. "I enjoyed doing what I did on the School Board.

She said she liked learning the ins and outs of district politics.

At Tuesday's meeting, she received a glowing recommendation.

"You've set the level as high as it could possibly be done," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt, lauding her professionalism and intelligence. "The part that's going to be neat is that 25 years from now when there's a student representative to the board, you will still be the first and you will have still set that level."

Board member John Sweeney agreed.

"I have to say, Tori, you are articulate, intelligent, engaging," he said, "a breath of fresh air sitting in between two breaths of hot air."

Sweeney and Blavatt were on either side.

"Your point of view is really appreciated," Sweeney added.

• • •

Selby said she was left out of the loop on the board at first.

She went from not seeing the agendas to having her own badge, office and mailbox. She joined School Board committees.

Selby delved into the issues, tackling everything from school zoning to a new rule that prevents students from hosting prom outside the county. She met monthly with student groups, talked to middle schoolers about the transition to high school and attended countless workshops and council meetings.

She became one of the chief communicators between the School Board and students. And she felt her voice was heard.

"I think that they did listen, especially once I got to know them and they got to know me," she said. "I think they enjoyed having that other perspective."

The student perspective.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

First student representative to School Board sets standard high 06/09/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 9, 2012 4:43pm]
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