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North Penn Democrats’ Club engages with School Board members

North Penn Democrats' Club poses for a picture with Board members Jenna Ott, Tina Stoll, and Jonathan Kassa.

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TOWAMENCIN- Although some people might be unaware of the tremendous impact the School Board has on the lives of students in the North Penn School District, it is irrefutable that the decisions and policies established by the Board members greatly affect students in the elementary, middle, and high schools. Therefore, it is important for students to take the initiative and become actively involved with their community by expressing their opinions to the Board. On Thursday afternoon, the North Penn High School Democrats’ Club did exactly that by inviting three members of the School Board to ask them questions and discuss their thoughts about the issues they see currently facing the district, from their perspective as students.

The Democrats’ Club decided to host a question and answer meeting with members of the School Board in order to learn more about the pressing issues that face the North Penn community as well as to have their voices heard about issues they see in their day-to-day lives as students in the district.

“The School Board has such a large impact in our day-to-day lives as students in the North Penn School District. In light of the sweeping Democrat victory last November, we believed hosting a Q&A with some of the School Board members was a great opportunity to not only bolster our club’s student membership, but also to meet with the officials who make important decisions for us students,” one of the co-presidents and co-founders of the club, Divya Sood explained.

To begin the meeting, the three Board members, Ms. Tina Stoll, Ms. Jenna Ott, and Mr. Jonathan Kassa introduced themselves and discussed their election into the Board. They shared their own, individual journeys regarding how they became interested in politics and what their experience was like campaigning for and being elected to the Board.

After introducing themselves and sharing their experiences, the question and answer segment began. Many questions were prewritten and randomly drawn, however as the meeting progressed, students asked different questions that led the discussion down a variety of pathways. Some of the big topics addressed included the struggles middle schoolers face regarding course selection and course leveling, the curriculum taught in elementary schools, the transition to middle and high school, the importance of maintaining good mental health in school, the work the Board is doing to eliminate the discrimination of students and to implement curriculum about consent in health classes, the integration of Chromebooks in the curriculum, along with several other matters.

One topic that was brought up was the subject of course selection and course leveling as middle schoolers transition into the high school.

“I think that one thing we should be prepared for is the courses and course load and just getting to know what’s going on. The levels are different up there in high school than what they are in middle school. It confuses a lot of kids and puts some doubt in their minds about the classes they’re taking,” one student commented about the discrepancy between the 5.0, Honors, and HP classes in middle school versus the 5.0, Honors, and AP classes in the high school.

Following another student’s remark about her experience with discrimination in the district, the Board discussed their desire to implement a diversity committee as well as have better staff training and cultural awareness.

“What I don’t want to do is have a committee of all white people talk about diversity. We want to make sure we get administrators, teachers, people in the community of color, and have them form the committee and educate us on what needs to be done to make it better for them,” conveyed Stoll.

Another topic that was discussed was the district wide implementation of Chromebooks that started in 2016. The Board listened as various students spoke about their experiences regarding the use of Chromebooks in classrooms and the successes and struggles they’ve had with the new technology.

“Teachers use their Chromebooks and the videos on there to teach for them. In place of discussion, there’s a lot of fill out forums and charts,” several students expressed as one of the main struggles with the recent integration of Chromebooks in the curriculum.

The meeting was a great opportunity for students and Board members to engage in meaningful discussion about what needs to be improved upon in the district. The Board encouraged all students to attend Board meetings and committee meetings in order to voice their thoughts.

“Students speaking at that Board meeting, I think, they are the most powerful speaker than anyone else who gets up behind that mic because of the courage and intellect and insight,” remarked Kassa.

By hosting several Board members, the students involved in the Democrats’ Club had a chance to hear about the issues currently being addressed by the School Board. The Democrats’ Club was created last November by North Penn High School sophomores Divya Sood and Rachel Rubins, following the Democratic victories in the local elections. The club, which is in affiliation with High School Democrats of Pennsylvania (HSDPA) and High School Democrats of America (HSDA), meets after school on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month.

“In our meetings, we discuss current affairs from a liberal, progressivist perspective, host speakers, usually local Democrat officials, and volunteer for congressional campaigns for the Democratic Party,” explained Sood.

By inviting members of the School Board to answer questions regarding topics that are prominent in students’ day to day lives, the Democrats’ Club was able to actively participate in their community and become informed about issues that affect the North Penn School District along with every student, parent, teacher, and community member in the district.

“Please continue to be involved because it is making a huge difference. One of the things we saw last election was the young voter turnout was higher than ever. And that’s so important. It’s time for the young people to get their voices out and start acting, so thank you,” Ott commented about the importance of being involved in politics and government.

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North Penn Democrats’ Club engages with School Board members