Learning to Lead: Henry County kids part of student cabinet | News … – Martinsville Bulletin


MARTINSVILLE – For the past four years, kids in Henry County Public Schools have helped govern themselves.

Recommended by administrators at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, Laurel Park Middle School, Bassett High School and Magna Vista High School, four representatives from each institution make up Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton’s 16-member student cabinet.

A unique facet of the operations of HCPS, the cabinet meets quarterly at the central office, located in the Henry County Administration Building.

“They offer feedback on the budget and other issues that impact students,” Monica Hatchett, HCPS director of communications and organizational learning, said.

Students discuss several topics at the cabinet meetings, ranging from the equity of course offerings to school lunches to technology in the classroom.

“Students are our most important customers,” Dr. Cotton said. “I put a lot of stock into what they’re telling me.”

While they’re not in charge of the school system and don’t directly make the decisions, the student cabinet’s influence does help administrators make necessary adjustments to help students attain the most out of their educational experience.

“Cabinet members offer anecdotal feedback and suggestions, which impacts decisions that Dr. Cotton makes on items that directly affect students,” Hatchett said.

“Their influence has really made a difference,” Dr. Cotton said.

At each meeting, which typically lasts about an hour, students tackle one or two issues that they find important.

They discuss matters on amicable terms, agreeing to four core values of the student cabinet. First, students promise to be candid and honest. They also agree to be open-minded. Each member must respect the opinion of others. All students on the cabinet also agree to contribute to the meeting by sharing their ideas.

Sadie Perry, a seventh grader at FCMS, said she enjoys being on the cabinet.

“The fact that I can be honest and am listened to means a lot to me,” Perry said. “The four of us from FC come at things from four different perspectives and I hope that we can make a difference for all students in our school. We work well together.”

In January, the first meeting of the new semester, cabinet members considered budget priorities.

Among the top five budgetary items they felt took precedence, students voted for increasing funding for education and recreation, increasing funding for capital outlay for schools, additional days for instructional technology resource teachers, athletic trainers for sporting events and funding for college guides.

Students also stressed the importance of adjusting long-term substitute rates for teachers offered a full-time job and ensuring proper athletic and musical equipment on the secondary level.

While there are ways for students to connect with Dr. Cotton, like sending suggestions, comments or concerns to “Let’s Talk,” the school system’s anonymous feedback forum, and an annual student survey completed by fifth, eighth and 12th graders, the student cabinet helps the administration put faces and names with the students their decisions impact.

Promoting self-confidence in its members, the student cabinet could have a lasting effect in the up-and-coming leaders of the Martinsville-Henry County area.

“I’m not sure what kind of leader I am, but I feel like it’s helped me find out that I can tackle any responsibility with other students who are my age and older,” Perry said.


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