There was a sixth elected official at the Chandler Unified School District’s Wednesday night governing board meeting — a student.
While Joseph Clay, 17, has no vote on the board, he will discuss student issues throughout this school year in front of a televised public audience, alongside the five member board.
Student body presidents have participated in Chandler’s board meetings for at least a decade and as long as any board member can recall. It began with Chandler High School’s student body presidents, and then became a rotation among three student presidents when Hamilton and then Basha high schools opened.
"The board is in charge of all the schools," Clay of Hamilton said after leaving the meeting, where he introduced the entire student council. "It just makes sense to have representation for students. It shows they appreciate our input."
Students give updates of events at school and have debated the board on issues important to them, including what authority students have in choosing fund-raising activities.
Marsha Coburn, the student government teacher at Hamilton, said taking part in the process shows students that their voice does matter.
"It’s good for the school board to be in touch with kids," she said. "Sometimes it seems like they’re far away from kids. And this also lets them see where they can take their leadership skills."
Clay has been in student government all four years at Hamilton. So far, it’s "been hectic" as the top student official at school, he said, dealing with homecoming falling in October — just after fall break. That cuts spirit week down to a three-day week, he said.
Clay also is a member of the Arizona Governor’s Youth Commission, and is planning leadership camps for students throughout the state this school year.
Board president Lon Miller said it’s important for the board to hear from students like Clay.
But schoolwork always comes first.
As Clay finished his report Wednesday, board member Annette Auxier reminded him what his first priority should be.
"We love having you here, but we understand any time if you have to go," she said. "We understand you may have homework to do. School is your first priority."