Nayak serves as San Diego County School Board student representative

Grace Tseng, Sports Editor

As a defense witness for Mock Trial, Aadya Nayak (11) has always had a passion for learning about the legislative system. Now, as the student representative for District 5 of the San Diego County Board of Education, Nayak uses her passion to serve her community and instigate change within the school district. 

On March 9, Nayak attended her first Board of Education meeting as a student representative for District 5. During the meeting, board members reviewed budget reports from the past month and brought up new topics to be discussed in the upcoming March 22 meeting. 

As a student representative, Nayak is in charge of ensuring that the students’ voices are present for major decisions. According to Nayak, she tries to do this through her preferential vote on non-closed session voting items on the board’s agenda.

“During board meetings, my vote doesn’t count towards the actual results of the vote, but it is meant to reflect how the student body feels,” Nayak said. “Personally, I consider one of the most important issues impacting public education to be equity both inside the classroom and on campus, so I always try to make sure my vote reflects that.” 

In preparation for her first meeting, Nayak said she visited the San Diego Unified School District website and reviewed the livestream tapes of previous board meetings in order to familiarize herself with the format of typical meetings. As one of five student board representatives, each representative attends two meetings per school year, and Nayak has been assigned to attend meetings during the months of March and April. 

“Student representatives kind of get thrust into the position as we’re only able to attend two meetings while serving our terms, so we have to prepare beforehand in order to keep up during meetings,” Nayak said. 

For her upcoming meeting, Nayak requested a financial report on the use of COVID-19 relief funds for mental health resources for students on PUSD campuses. This report is scheduled to be sent out to board members in early April, and released to the general public following the April board meeting.

“I requested this report because I wanted the public to be able to see where COVID-19 relief funds were going, and hopefully to ensure that mental health resources are still implemented for students after COVID-19 relief funds run out,” Nayak said. “I’ve always believed that mental health awareness is something that needs to be addressed at the County Board level, and I want to make sure that there is student input regarding that item.”

Nayak initially applied to become a student representative for the school board as she always felt a desire to use her firsthand experience as a PUSD student to advocate for student needs.

“I am interested in student leadership as well as civic engagement, and I feel like it is very important that there is a direct line of communication between the student body and our county board members,” Nayak said. 

In March, Nayak saw a social media post about open applications for School Board student representatives, which she said initially sparked her curiosity in what the job entailed. 

“I know the position of being a student board member on the district board is a lot more popularized and we know a lot more about it, but [School Board student representatives are] something that I hadn’t heard much about,” Nayak said. “I did some more research into it and I realized that although we don’t tend to think about the county a lot, it’s really influential in the decisions that affect our community.” 

From her research, Nayak learned that the San Diego County School Board is in charge of designing a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) survey each year, as well as maintaining outreach programs for juvenile youth and foster youth.

As the daughter of Darshana Patel, San Diego County School Boards Association President and PUSD Board of Education Trustee and Clerk, Nayak said that being able to talk with her mother about the different decisions being made during school board meetings helped her gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings behind instigating change in the school district. 

“My mom has really made me want to be involved as much as I can in administration,” Nayak said. “When I first told [my mom] I was interested, she told me it would be a good experience applying if I wanted to become more involved.”

Nayak said that being a student herself and having experience participating in extracurriculars, such as Mock Trial, has given her assets that allow her to make decisions that reflect her fellow students and community.

“I think Mock Trial has helped me being a student board member because I’ve gotten better at holding my ground and being able to interrupt someone when they’re not saying the right thing,” Nayak said. 

In the future, Nayak said she hopes to pursue a career in law, and said participating as a student representative on the School Board as well as a member of the Mock Trial team has solidified her aspirations.

“I think being involved in the judicial and legislative processes at a young age is really instrumental in discovering what you want to do,” Nayak said. “And for law especially, learning how ideas are brought to the table, cultivated, and edited is extremely important knowledge.”