On Board with brownies

Brownies with the Board event to give community a chance for one-on-ones with Francis Howell board members

Whitney Klein

More stories from Whitney Klein

College or career?
December 24, 2018

Tuesday, October 23rd. The Francis Howell Board of Education came together within the Howell Central Learning Commons. Their purpose? To greet the people as members of the community. The very first Brownies with the Board event brought the board together with Francis Howell faculty, families, and students as people who just want to hear what they had to say.

Michelle Walker, a Director for the Board of Education, believes this event is important so the community can see the board members as real people instead of strict, serious rule-setters up on a pedestal.

“We are people. I’m a mom. I’ve got kids in two districts, my business in the community,” Walker said. “We don’t ever have the opportunity to have two-way conversations with the members of our community. We need to have opportunities for people to come in and talk to us because at board meetings.”

Board President Rene Cope gives an idea of how this event came to be.

“We want to make the board accessible, and we’ve been looking at different ways for that to be the case. If you’ve ever gone to a board meeting, it’s very formal. We sit up on a dias, we listen to an item on the agenda, and we vote. There’s not a lot of interaction with our community,” Cope said.

This issue is the current focus of the board; giving members of the Francis Howell community a chance to speak to the board members and interact with them, having the members of the community see them as real, but also have a chance to voice their concerns in a comfortable environment.

Vicky Frayne, who works in Purchased Services for Francis Howell, thinks it is vital that people have this chance to talk to the board.

“I think it’s very important that the community get to meet the board members, share their concerns, and listen to the board’s issues and reasons for why they make the decisions they do,” Frayne said. “It’s very important for the community to realize what the actual board of education does.”

While with the board, attendees asked questions, voiced their concerns, and left the evening satisfied, but worried parents and faculty were not the only ones in attendance. Three young girl scouts also attended the event; Clarissa, Lauren, and Emma are only nine and ten years old, but came to this event in search of more information as they work towards their Government patches for Girl Scouts.

“We were doing government stuff, so we came here to learn. We learned that there’s special people in your school that you can talk to if you want to change stuff at your school or you can ask executives to help you with something going on in your state,” said Lauren and Clarissa together.

All three young ladies were excited to list out how they were going to use this new knowledge to their advantage; such as changing the amount of time for eating lunch or getting more recess. When asked what their favorite thing they learned at the event, Lauren talked over the others excitedly.

“There’s actually people in our school that can change the rules of the school,” Lauren said.

This event proved to be beneficial, not only to those seeking resolution for their issues, but to also educate people on how the board works, and how voicing their problems can truly make a difference. Board members were disappointed to see that a minimal number of students attended the event because students have live under the board’s decisions everyday.

“We’re here to educate our students, right? And how do we do that without their voice? You’re the boots on the ground. You’re receiving our services. What are we doing right and what can we do to improve? We would love to see more students here,” Cope said.

Cope expresses their hope for more students to join. Walker goes in-depth to explain just how critical hearing student opinions is to the board.

“As a student, how better to figure out how to get things done than to make friends with the board members, be the thorn in their sides, we need to be able to fix whatever it is you want changed, and we can’t do that unless you’re voicing your issues to us. This is an opportunity for students to come in and have their voices heard. Students have a much stronger voice with more power behind it than anyone else,” Walker said.

The board hopes to see more students at the next Brownies with the Board event; the date of which has yet to be determined. They hope to host one at each of the three Francis Howell high schools to give more people a chance to attend the event.