Youth voting initiatives have been a hot topic in Berkeley for the past few years, as Vote 16 was lobbied for and passed in our city. Early voter registration has been pushed in our assemblies, and the importance of youth voting is constantly vocalized around us. Despite this, it’s easy to feel your vote in national, or even state, elections isn’t very important or influential.
However, a new election opportunity has been brought into question: why don’t Berkeley High School (BHS) students vote for our principal, or even our superintendent? These people affect our day-to-day lives and education, and yet most students have no say in who gets these positions.
Although the principal does not control every aspect of student life, they do control quite a bit regarding the quality of education students receive. In addition, they have a say in dictating teacher tenure, as well as simply hiring teachers.
Student elections could assist in ensuring that the principal of the school shares the same morals and intentions around the school faculty as the students attending the school. BHS has had its fair share of principals, with most lasting only one or two years before leaving — with the exception of current Principal Erin Schweng. By giving some power to students to help decide their principal, we can avoid placing inconsistent, and often ineffective, people in this position of power.
However, this is a lot of power to be given to a group of high school students, especially considering that many will only be attending the school for a few more years. By combining student votes with school board and superintendent appointment, we can effectively ensure a school official who accurately represents the student body they were hired to serve.
Alternatively, student body representatives and small school leadership could be consulted while the decision is being made. This way, students could have a say in deciding the trajectory of the principals initiatives or changes to the school that they attend. Student leaders could have more say than simply choosing the themes for Spirit Week and venues for prom.
Another issue is, the candidates for the position are quite numerous, and the process for selecting the person for the job includes many steps, including background checks, references, and multiple interviews. Simplifying these aspects into just campaigning could lead to the selection of someone who is lacking necessary skills for the job, or who does not have sufficient experience to handle such a job. However, one could simply argue that this holds true for most elections, especially including our federal one. A simple compromise can be found by allowing students to vote for a selection of 5-10 candidates chosen by the school board or hiring committee. This may seem like a complicated process, but by doing so, we can ensure that those who apply for the job are fully prepared and equipped to handle the job they are seeking.
Berkeley has always been at the forefront of student-led activism, both at our high school and university. By allowing students the autonomy to select their principal, we can establish an ideal education system that prioritizes students’ educational needs over ease, one that gives our students the tools to flourish after high school.