BROOKSVILLE — Next year's Hernando County high school juniors and seniors can start crafting campaign platforms after the School Board on Tuesday agreed to add a student representative on the board.
The board also approved the 2011-12 school calendar, albeit reluctantly.
All five members agreed to the student representative, but three — Chairman James Yant, Pat Fagan and John Sweeney —wanted to commit the district to the idea by adding language to the policy manual.
"We're here for the children of this county, and I think whatever we can do … to bring about this process, I support 100 percent," Fagan told superintendent Bryan Blavatt, who proposed the policy with support of his student advisory group.
Member Dianne Bonfield hesitated to codify the representative in the policy manual without a trial period. Member Cynthia Moore agreed.
"I don't think there is any question whether we'd like to have a student, we just don't want a policy yet," Moore said. "We want to see how it would work for a year."
As Blavatt and his student advisory group envisioned it, the student representative would be a junior or senior, elected at the start of the school year by a districtwide contingent of delegates from every school.
The representative would attend meetings during the school year, sit with the board and participate in discussions, but would not vote or be paid. The position will be in place for the next school year.
Several members of the student group attended the workshop, and three of them offered a glimpse of what a student might add to the dialogue.
To concerns Bonfield expressed about pressure on board members and the reality that pleasing everyone is impossible, Springstead senior Sydney Monahan, 18, said, "We're in high school. We deal with that anyway. Don't underestimate us."
"I'm not underestimating you at all," Bonfield replied. "I just think you might be underestimating the job of School Board member. It is tough."
On the school calendar issue, all the board members agreed: Neither option presented by the calendar committee was optimal.
But they acknowledged the committee had little room to work with because of state mandates on how early the school year can begin and the timing of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in 2012 (April 16-27, with the writing portion in February).
The board agreed that Calendar A was, as Bonfield put it, the "lesser of two evils."
Spring break in 2012 is Monday, March 19, to Sunday, March 25. Monday the 26th would be a professional day for teachers, so students wouldn't return until Tuesday.
In a survey of 1,209 teachers and staff and members of parent-teacher associations and school advisory committees, 1,080 supported Calendar A.
In the other option, spring break would have been a month later, and students and employees would not have been off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, among the busiest travel days of the year in the United States.