By Curt Yeomans
The Georgia Department of Education announced on Wednesday that Interim Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant is inviting high school students to apply to be part of a group of pupils, who act as a voice for their classmates in meetings with state education leaders.
The department has had a Student Advisory Council every year since former state school superintendent, Kathy Cox, introduced the concept in 2003, said DOE Spokesman Matt Cardoza.
Cardoza said the council helps the Department of Education understand how effective its policies are from students' perspectives. The students are also used by department officials as a "sounding board of ideas" for improving education in Georgia, he said.
"We have the council, so that students can have a voice in what's going on, and give that view from the real trenches, about how the policies are being carried out, and if they are working," Cardoza said.
The deadline to apply for a seat on the council is Sept. 17. The application can be downloaded from the Georgia Department of Education's web site, www.doe.k12.ga.us/. Membership is open only to high school students. More than 550 students, representing 108 school districts, applied last year, and only 53 were chosen, Cardoza said. He said the council typically has between 40 and 50 members.
On the application, students are asked to list their school and community activities. They are also being asked to briefly write, in 150 to 300 words, their ideas for increasing the state's high school graduation rate.
"In 2010, Georgia's graduation rate rose to approximately 80 percent, up from 63 percent in 2002," the application states. "The primary task of the 2010-2011 Student Advisory Council will be to develop a plan to continue to increase the graduation rate."
The applications will be reviewed by a committee of Department of Education officials, according to Cardoza. "They select those students that would best represent their fellow students," he said. "We're looking for students who represent every walk of life, not just the valedictorians."
The council will meet three times during the upcoming school year. The first meeting is scheduled to take place on Oct. 25, and the subsequent meeting dates are Jan. 24, 2011, and March 7, 2011. According to the application to join the council, its members will be required to attend all three meetings.
"I know that former Superintendent Kathy Cox really enjoyed working with her advisory councils, and learning from the advice of students," said Bryant, in a written statement. "I believe it is important to take the feedback of these students into account as we make state-wide policy decisions that affect their futures, and prepare them for college and career readiness."
The school systems in Clayton and Henry counties have been represented on the council in recent years. Last year, Lovejoy High School student, Jerrel Baker, and Luella High School student, Joseph Helena, were members of the council.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the council, should contact the Georgia Department of Education's Coordinator of External Affairs, Courtney Burnett, by telephone at (404)657-1340, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The applications should be sent to Superintendent's Advisory Council, c/o Courtney Burnett, 2066 Twin Towers East, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.