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The Frankfort Independent Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Houston Barber listen to a proposal from Frankfort High student Audrey Gilbert about adding a non-voting student representative to the FHS school based decision making council. (Linda Younkin/State Journal)

Frankfort High sophomore Audrey Gilbert thinks students need to be heard when decisions are made affecting schools, and on Monday she made her third presentation about adding a non-voting student member to the FHS Site-Based Decision Making Council.

"This whole process is kind of a lengthy process and we are in our final stages here, but the entire point of adding a student member to the site-based council is just to allow a space for students to voice their opinions on a school decision making body,” Gilbert told the Frankfort Independent Schools Board of Education at its meeting Monday.

The board voted unanimously to add a non-voting student member to the FHS SBDM council.

That’s just one of several steps that have to be taken to add the member.

Gilbert began working on the proposal in June as part of a national YMCA Changemakers initiative.

She made contact with people at the Kentucky Department of Education, who advised her. She approached FHS Principal Tyler Reed in August, followed by making presentations to the school’s site-based council and the FHS staff, which had to give a two-thirds majority vote for the proposal before it went to the FIS Board of Education.

It will now be sent to the KDE and the commissioner’s office. Gilbert said hopefully the proposal would be added to the agenda of the Kentucky Board of Education’s April meeting, and if the KBE approves, it would be put into action.

Gilbert said students can talk during the SBDM council’s public comment time, but that’s the only time.

The meetings are open to the public.

“They can sit and be silent, but they need an active position,” Gilbert said. “I see a lot of areas where a student voice can be so valuable, but it’s so underused.”

The student member of the SBDM would be the student council president, who is always a senior. The vice president from the previous year automatically becomes the student council president his or her senior year.

Gilbert said the student representative would be advocating on behalf of the student body and that the student representative couldn’t go into any closed sessions the council might have.

“I’m right there with Audrey,” Reed told the board about adding the non-voting student member to the council. “I’ve fully supported her since she presented it to us. She’s done the majority of the work on this. She presented to the site-based herself, she presented to the staff, and she presented to you all, so it really is a student-led effort, and she’s not doing it just for a means for herself.

“She’s not president, and she’s a year away from running for vice president. It’s a huge aspect to put in this work and bring that student voice to Frankfort High.”

Board member David Garnett spoke in support of the proposal.

“In 1972 I was sworn in as a voting member of the Board of Regents at what was then known as Northern Kentucky State College as a student participant,” he said. “I can tell you having a vote and a voice is better than just having a voice itself, but in this case I guess it would probably take a statutory change to include a vote, so the voice I think would be a welcome addition.”

Board Chair Jina Greathouse agreed.

“I just want to note I appreciate Audrey Gilbert’s work in advocating for a student voice,” she said. “I think this is a nice step in the right direction.”

In other action Monday:

• The board accepted a proposal from Elliott Electric to provide power and rough-in for a new scoreboard and scoreboard locations for a total cost of $5,692 at F.D. Wilkinson Gymnasium, which is under renovation. The money for Elliott Electric will come from available contingency funds. The board also approved spending $7.59 per linear foot to prep and paint rusted steel lintels exposed during masonry repair.

• The board approved the demolition of a storage building on site at F.D. Wilkinson Gymnasium for a price of $7,526, which includes $1,675 to Frei Plumbing for capping utilities and $5,851.20 to Momentum Construction for removing the building, returning the site to earth fill and grass to match adjacent turf. The project will be paid through available contingency funds.

• Frankfort High students Jinniah Ali, Riley Gordon, Hanna Wright and Diamond Moore were recognized for their work that placed in the top three of the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission and Kentucky Heritage Council contest in poetry, essay and visual art.

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