The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

Battikha constructs, programs drone for pollution detection
Battikha constructs, programs drone for pollution detection
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What I Learnt Being on the PUSD Board of Education

Since the beginning of this school year, I have served on the Poway Unified School District Board of Education as the Student Board Member. In other words, I represent the student voice at monthly Board meetings. 

Although there are many things that the Student Board member can’t vote on (issues regarding personnel and the budget), I have gained a lot from the experiences I did have on the Board. As my term comes to a close, I am realizing that my biggest takeaway is a greater understanding of and appreciation for local government. 

Undoubtedly, this year was a unique one for the Board. After a months-long investigation, we terminated the superintendent’s employment contract. And let me just give you a sense of how big of a deal this was. Not only was there coverage across all San Diegan news channels, but there was even an article about “Clappergate” in The New York Post. On top of that, when I went to a conference for school board members in San Francisco and introduced myself as the Student Board Member from Poway Unified, I was greeted with, “You mean the one with the clapping controversy?” 

Despite the chaotic and contentious nature of issues facing the Board, there is something truly exciting about the board meetings themselves. If democracy is like a ladder, the Board of Education is the lowest rung. K-12 education is something that affects almost everyone, whether they’re parents, students, or teachers and when the people feel the need to speak up and spark change, they often go to a board meeting. For me, it was like seeing the town hall meetings described in my APUSH textbook come to life. 

The less exciting aspect of sitting behind the dais in the district office is the feeling of powerlessness. Before stepping into this role, I knew that there were many things I wouldn’t be able to change as the Student Board Member, but I was still naive. What I realized after the first few months is that school districts are incredibly restricted by the state government when it comes to what we fund and what we teach in our classrooms. 

For example, some parents at last month’s board meeting expressed concern over the explicit nature of middle school sex education and urged the Board to change it. Regardless of whether we would want to change it, middle school sex education curriculum is mandated by California Education Code. 

When it comes to funding, one of the biggest issues the district is facing is deteriorating facilities. We have gotten to the point where roofs are leaking on students and drains are flooding locker rooms. Unfortunately, we don’t get funding from the state to upgrade our infrastructure. Unlike many other states, all of California’s funding for facilities has to come from bonds, which we haven’t passed in 13 years, or our general fund reserves, which are not looking good in light of new state budget cuts. When Rancho Bernardo’s HVAC broke, a whopping $10 million had to be pulled out of our reserves, the funds that we had wanted to save to be able to pay teachers in case of a financial emergency.  

As someone who has been on the other side, I realized that it’s rather easy to blame the Board for things that are out of their control. At the same time, it is incredibly important that community members show up to board meetings and speak their mind.  

When students from Del Norte complained about how ineffective recycling on their campus was, we worked with them to buy new recycling bins and connect them with a local recycling facility. 

At the end of the day, change in public education can be slow, messy, and even unsuccessful at times. However, I have so much appreciation for the fact that we at least have a mechanism like board meetings in place to make the process a little faster, a little cleaner, and maybe even a little more successful.  

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Nirja Trivedi, Staff Writer

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