top of page

Single candidate emerges in student race for New Haven Board of Education seat

NEW HAVEN — Nico Rivera, a candidate for an elected two-year term as a student representative on the Board of Education, beat the competition when he submitted his application on time. It was reported to the Board of Education in March that only three sophomores were petitioning for candidacy: one from Sound School, one from James Hillhouse High School and Rivera, who attends Metropolitan Business Academy. On Tuesday, the Citywide Student Council heard Rivera’s platform only, as he was the sole candidate to submit the requisite 100 signatures, 50 of which had to come from five schools other than his own, on time. Rivera addressed the student council by telling them something his father said to him during a rough patch that always stuck with him: “We stand together.” "If it’s like that, why can’t the youth of New Haven Public Schools stand together?” he said. “School should always be a place where a person can thrive and grow without feeling their life is in danger.” Rivera said “renewing a positive school climate across the district” is a top priority for him.“It’s our time, it’s us, the next generation of workers, the youth,” he said. “Come on and let’s start working. Let’s give a helping hand and stand together strong for safe schools, a positive school climate and being unified among the New Haven Public Schools community.”New Haven Academy junior Z’Nay Morris asked Rivera how he would cut through loud opinions and maintain his regular activities as a student.“I’m a multitasker,” Rivera said. “I am actually involved in six different sports.” In addition to that, he said his goal is to attend West Point — “It’s the best military college in the United States,” he said. Rivera said he wants to be a conduit for student voice, but it would be important for students to show up and speak for themselves.He said he considers the district’s Director of Security Thaddeus Reddish to be a friend, and he would like to collaborate with the security team to enhance security as students around the nation have become increasingly unnerved by recent school shootings. Citywide Youth Coalition Executive Director Addys Castillo, who serves on the student elections committee, also addressed the group to solicit feedback on how to get students engaged in running for the school board.“I come to you humbly because I need your help,” she said. Engineering and Science University Magnet School sophomore Thomas Nardini said the lack of voting power has turned off students.“ They’re not going to listen to us, as great of a persuader as Nico may be,” he said.Castillo said she thought that might be the case.“How are you going to get anybody to be a part of that process when you told students in not so many words that your voice doesn’t count,” she said, concurring with Nardini. Throughout 2017, a divisive search for a new superintendent of schools split the school board. Student board members Jacob Spell and Makayla Dawkins said they would not have supported Carol Birks, the eventual hire. Had they been given votes, the vote to hire Birks would have been unsuccessful.Castillo said it would be important for the school board to address “adultism,” or the belief among adults that they know more than teenagers on everything.“ No matter how many experiences we’ve had, we don’t know your experience,” she said. Rodriguez, who was also present to address the student council, said he was not serving on the school board for the entirety of the superintendent search, but he believes students must be better represented.“ We have to create a culture on the board where students like yourself and the student representatives feel their voices are not only being lifted, but their voices are being heard,” he said. He added that, as a Puerto Rican, he empathizes with having representatives without voting representation. Regional Career High School senior Azhaleia Reyes said she believes the lack of interest may have been an advertising and marketing issue, a point that was cosigned by many on the student council. Castillo agreed, saying the committee was handicapped during a transitional period between former Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries and former Interim Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo.“ We should be having this conversation freshman year,” she said. Castillo also imparted upon the students that, even if there are two elected representatives, it would be powerful for the rest of the students to fill the auditorium during school board meetings if they had something important to advocate.“ If y’all filled the room, then they can’t ignore you. You might have to go there and be the infantry to show up,” she said. "I can’t wait to see a board meeting when all of y’all occupy the seats.” Robert Gibson, a retired educator who supervises the student council, said the law is "unlikely to change” to allow students to vote on school board business, but past student movements have shown that students can organize effectively. In 2017, Dawkins, who will serve the second year of her term next year, beat three other candidates. The year before, Spell, who graduates this year, emerged victorious in a crowded field of seven students. In 2015, inaugural student board members Coral Ortiz and Kimberly Sullivan won their election against one and three other students, respectively. At the March school board meeting, Rodriguez said there was one stream of savings the Student Election Committee identified: instead of renting election machines to count ballots for $5,000, the Registrar of Voters would lend their machines for the exercise. Now, it seems the district will save money on counting ballots

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
bottom of page