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Despite Efforts, Student Body Struggles to Connect to BHS Leadership

Within the first few weeks of school, Berkeley High School (BHS) is already facing the aftermath of distance learning. The auditorium is closed, so there are no school-wide assemblies in the foreseeable future. The PA system has also been faulty, limiting students’ knowledge about upcoming events. Due to distance learning, low turnout at last year’s election means that many students had no say in the representatives in BHS’s student leadership this year. 

For years, there has been a disconnect between BHS students and the school ‘s leadership. “We’ve had a low connection [between students and leadership] in previous years,” said Chloe Burke, President of the Associated Student Body (ASB). “My goal is to have us known. We’re [the] Associated Student Body, and we help you.”

Burke, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), has been involved with leadership since her freshman year, and served as the Commissioner of Athletics on the BHS Leadership Executive Team last year.

The ASB Vice President for this year is Hanim Nuru, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS). Nuru has also been in leadership since freshman year, serving on the Executive Team alongside Burke last year. 

“Our goal this year is to connect more with the student body and bridge the gap between [the administration] and the student body … and to have a smooth transition to in-person, giving whatever resources are needed,” said Burke.

While Burke and Nuru may be excited to be in office, the rest of the student body is not as connected yet. Elise Nudel, a junior in AC, said she can’t think of anyone who even knows who’s on the ASB Leadership Team this year. “I literally have no idea who’s on leadership,” she said, “[Not knowing the leadership team] separates the student body, there’s not really any form of connection through everyone.”

According to polls from BHS Director of Student Activities John Villavicencio, last year only 34 percent of students actually voted. The lack of voting alone has already widened the gap between students and Leadership, because the election didn’t reflect the opinions of the entire student body.

“If you’re disconnected from the outcomes of the election, then you probably feel like those people don’t speak for you,” said Villavicencio. 

Last year, the election ended up being entirely student motivated. To get information about candidates, students had to attend an online election convention outside of school, which had a low turnout, likely less than 100 students. A large amount of information about the candidates was also given through social media, which the whole student body does not have access to. 

Nuru said it was hard to get students to attend events in general last year, and the election was full of confusion with very little participation. 

“I thought the election would be basically the same, if not better,” said Villavicencio. “I guess my thinking is, ‘How hard is it to click through a Google form?’”

Nudel said she wasn’t well informed about the election last year, a trend which may have caused the low turnout. “I don’t remember hearing about it,” she said, “I feel like if they had made an announcement in class, I would have [voted].”

This year is already starting out with similar communication issues. Most information is being presented over email, and many students don’t check their email very frequently. Leadership is already trying to adapt to these issues. Instead of the Welcome Back Assembly, they released a string of welcome back videos, which teachers could show in their classrooms. This method may not have been entirely effective, considering, as Nuru pointed out, not all teachers were willing or able to share the video during their class time.

Azaria Stauffer-Barney, a freshman in Hive 2, said that she has no recollection of the video being played for her class. Consequently, she doesn’t know who is in leadership this year. “It would be nice to get a sense of who’s running things,” she said.

Nuru explained that student participation requires knowledge of events, so she and Burke are brainstorming new ways to inform the student body. “Having alternatives to assemblies and class gatherings would be great. I have no idea how, but we’re working on brainstorming,” said Nuru.

Villavicencio said he thinks that assemblies are not a necessity for this year’s community, suggesting that Zoom assemblies could be an even more effective alternative. 

For now, students can stay connected by checking their gmail accounts, and following @juicethejackets, @bhsexecutiveteam, and specific grade-level leadership accounts on Instagram. 

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