How attending School Board meetings has shaped who I am today


Sameera Rachakonda

Over the past three years, attending School Board meetings has played a significant role in my high school career. Shown above is a photo from a Board meeting earlier this school year.

I walked into my first School Board meeting as a measly sophomore, feeling apprehensive and awkward. I didn’t know there was a difference between a work session meeting and an action meeting, and the words “superintendent’s report” and “audience of citizens” were foreign to me.

During my first meeting, there was an open position on the Board, and I remember the Board appointed a member that the audience expressed fervent disapproval about. I listened as Board members talked about things that up until a couple of minutes ago, I didn’t even know existed. As I heard voices demand for change, I was stunned by the extent of devotion that people had for a public school district. I was so used to caring about big-ticket issues that made headlines in The New York Times that the thought of being so invested in things like additional classroom space and diversity training felt strange. 

Over the last three years, I’ve attended a number of School Board meetings. Some lasted over three hours and were rampant with profane language. Others were thirty minutes long, and the only audience members were me and the reporter from the town newspaper. I’ve watched disappointed teachers and angry parents stand up at the podium to recite their concerns: the lack of air conditioning, racial bias, bullying. The comments and discussions that I have heard have opened my eyes to why commitment to local government is vital to inspiring change on a global level. As my fascination with local government and my interest in politics grew, I decided to expand my involvement beyond just attending the bimonthly Board meetings.

Last year, five out of nine seats were open on the Board. Historically, the Board has always had a Republican majority, and with five seats open, the majority could switch parties. In a little over a month, our high school newspaper staff organized a student moderated town hall where candidates from both parties had the opportunity to express their views on controversial issues such as taxes, renovation needs, and full day kindergarten. The civil conversations and bipartisan ideas shared that night sparked a sense of hopefulness and optimism in me; a light that had been previously dulled by national politics. The passion and curiosity of the audience made me truly aware of the wonders of public education and the achievements that governments are capable of when community members become involved.

Later that year, I wrote an article regarding the lack of representation in government, and I addressed representation in my local government. One day after school, I sat with three Board directors and interviewed them about the significance of representation in politics. The interview lasted for two hours, and what started out as an interview about representation drifted into a conversation about issues such as gun control and the extent of free speech. As I learned about their careers in government and personal experiences in politics, I became further interested about the structure of government. 

My passion for government and my desire to evoke change derives from the knowledge that change at a local level is vital for change at a global level. Attending School Board meetings for the last three years has shown me that real change is not always broadcast on CNN or initiated by celebrities. Change often starts small; it starts in classrooms and at community events. And it’s often initiated by people whose names you’ll never read in The New York Times.

As I graduate and transition from a North Penn student to a North Penn alumna, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about the significance of local government and the dedication of the North Penn School District when it comes to creating a platform for its students to learn and grow. I encourage anyone reading this to attend a School Board meeting. You’ll walk away with a newfound appreciation for the people that volunteer hours of their time to make sure you have the best education possible, and a new knowledge of the critical importance of local government in today’s political and social climate.