The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 15, 2009

Student Senate offers students a voice in CCHS affairs

Every other Monday, an enthusiastic group of 30 devoted students gathers at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) to accomplish everything from planning major all-school social events to improving school policy. The group is known as the Concord-Carlisle Student Senate and is comprised of six senators elected per grade, in addition to committee members and a moderator, moderator-elect and secretary. A faculty advisor, Brian Miller is also an integral, though non-voting member. Following the basic protocol of the United States’ Senate, the Student Senate votes on bills, passes resolutions, launches subcommittees, and debates important issues, all while conversing with the formalities of motions, yeas, and nays.

Senate’s role at Concord-Carlisle is a unique one because it can, as secretary Sophia Meyerson of Concord describes “make school-wide changes,” whereas class governments deal with specific grades. Senate Moderator and former Carlisle resident Katharine Price sees the group’s principal role as “a link between students and faculty and administrators.” Miller has called the senate “the voice of the students” and Price believes the senators’ responsibility to represent their constituents is the most important facet of this role. As one example, senate members share student perspectives on school issues at the monthly meetings of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee.

“We have to be responsible, mature, and trustworthy so that we garner the respect we need to function properly,” says Price. She notes that “Mr. Badalament [CCHS principal] is always willing to meet ... and discuss a certain issue, and other faculty members and administrators have had nothing but nice things to say. It is really a gift to attend a school that places so much trust in its student organizations.” Meyerson mentions the praise Senate receives for its work. “I am always so pleased when we go to a departmental chairs meeting and they compliment our legislation” she remarks.

Role evolves

For all its accomplishments, the ’08-’09 school year marks only the third session of the Senate, which was established in 2006. The group continues to grow and learn from past experiences. Moderator-elect Elise Goodhue of Concord cites this effort “to look critically at ourselves as a Senate, and question the organization of our group” as what she is most proud of from the third session, which came to a close in late April. “By discussing the relationship between the student body and the Student Senate, I believe we have begun to further establish Senate as ‘the voice of the students’,” Goodhue elaborates. The group has discussed everything from senator biographies on a soon-to-be launched Senate website to a Senate Facebook account in order to better the relations between Senate and students.

Varied activities

The work of the past Senate session began a year ago in June 2008. Following elections, the group finished the school year getting to know each other, setting goals and assisting in the planning of Freshman Orientation. In September, with the addition of Senators from the freshman class, the

Senate hit the ground running. In the first few weeks the group planned an activities fair to introduce students to the school’s extracurricular activities and also aided in the coordination of Back to School Night for parents. As the year progressed, the Senate initiated many different projects to better student life, as well as a variety of bills and resolutions. These projects included the placing of a microwave in the cafeteria and money for more textbooks in the library. Bills and resolutions passed included a bill to establish a school compost, a formal request to improve school bathrooms and a bill to publish the CCHS handbook online to conserve paper. Meyerson admits that, “Although these were small issues, I think that our legislation did make a difference.” An amendment to the Senate Constitution was also passed, which added two new executive positions, a treasurer and a historian. In addition, the Senate faced controversial issues including a homophobic incident at a school dance which led to a diversity celebration campaign that involved a school-wide assembly and a banner with student handprints in the cafeteria reading “Unity through Diversity.”

Besides these weightier matters, the Senate planned many fun social events. The annual tradition of a “Spirit Week” before Thanksgiving break was managed by the group. The week consisted of outrageous themes of dress for each day of the week, as well as a “Powderpuff” football game played by the junior and senior girls and an all-school spirit dance. In March, the Senate hosted an all-school formal called the “Black and White Dance.” Meyerson comments that she found planning these events particularly pleasurable, since their “goals include pure enjoyment instead of making money.”

Though the third session of the Senate has come to a close, Goodhue is quick to encourage students to attend meetings in the next session. She explains, “You do not need to be elected to attend meetings. We would highly encourage anyone with any interest in the CCHS community to stop by for a meeting, or even part of a meeting.” Meanwhile, Meyerson, who graduates in June, fondly remembers her experience with the Senate, acknowledging how she’s been “so happy to be part of such a great group of people.” Price, also a senior, feels similarly, reflecting on the incredible amount she has learned while a member, saying “Being Moderator has given me so many skills that a person just doesn’t learn in class. I have really grown as a person from being the Moderator and I know that what I’ve learned will follow me forever.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito