On Wednesday, January 17, Sarasota County Schools Superintendent, Terry Connor, 10 school district officials, and 70 local high school students came together for the Annual Superintendent’s Forum at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota.
Each year, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council which is comprised of STAR (Students Taking Active Roles) Leadership Alumni, and representatives of the 7 Sarasota County High Schools, actively engages with their peers and the administration to identify challenges and concerns within the school environment. With the support of the Superintendent of Schools and the Chief of High Schools, Dr. Meghan Green, the Council facilitates the annual forum which provides students with a safe space for open dialogue with school administration district officials to brainstorm solutions aimed at improving students’ overall educational experience.
This year, students had the opportunity to participate in discussions around ten student-identified issues which included;
Advisory Council Co-Chairs, Ava M., and Ashley R. kicked off the day with a warm welcome and objectives for the forum, followed by brief comments from BGCSDC President/CEO, Bill Sadlo, and Superintendent, Terry Connor. Facilitator, Joyce Stiglitz then opened the workshop where much of the day was spent in table discussions between youth leaders and district officials delving into the issues and collaborating on actionable next steps.
President/CEO Bill Sadlo, BGCSDC noted the importance of establishing these opportunities for youth to amplify their voices and the importance of providing “a supportive environment where teens can openly engage in impactful conversations with both their peers and community leaders to collaborate on enacting meaningful change in their schools.”
Superintendent Terry Connor shared similar sentiments commenting that the forum was an; “enlightening experience that has reinforced his belief in the immense value of student voices in shaping their educational journey. Listening to our students articulate their perspectives on issues directly impacting their school experience was not only inspiring but also a testament to their engagement and maturity. They approached each topic with thoughtfulness and a solution-oriented mindset, demonstrating their capacity to not only identify challenges but also to collaboratively brainstorm innovative solutions.”
After thoughtful dialogue, each group shared key insights from their discussions and made recommendations for change. Superintendent Connor closed the day with a Q&A session and highlights from the district’s strategic plan.
Co-Chair, Ashley R., later shared how her role has; “provided valuable insight into the issues council members had identified within their schools. Working to improve those issues during the forum with students all over the district has been incredibly rewarding. It was a pleasure to work with the Superintendent and district staff. Thanks to student input, we can create a lasting impact within our school district."
Co-Chair, Ava M., also later shared how her role as co-chair has been transformative and enabled her to; “hear opinions on issues present at other schools while encouraging my fellow council members to brainstorm innovative ideas to help solve them.” She continued; “having the opportunity to work directly with the Superintendent and lead others while creating change through teamwork has been truly life changing."
The Superintendent’s Forum provides students across the county with a unique platform to amplify their voices and express opinions on meaningful issues to advocate for real change. The student participants are grateful for this opportunity to share their perspectives, knowing that administrators are not only willing to listen but are also committed to making real changes in schools based on their feedback.
Click to learn more about the opportunities offered through the STAR Leadership Training program, or contact Bailey Henson, Leadership Programs Specialist at Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, at 941-366-3911.