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Herkimer BOCES Pathways Academy elects 1st Student Council

Nov. 5, 2018

Five Pathways Academy students elected to the Student Council stand on stage together

Members of the recently elected Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy at Remington Student Council pose together on stage on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. From left: Zach Perkett, of Central Valley; Zach Maida, of Poland; Brandon Sorce, of Poland; Curtis Walker, of Mount Markham, and Harmony Miller, of Frankfort-Schuyler. Absent from photo: Student Council member Evan Aney, of West Canada Valley.

ILION – Yesterday was Election Day, but students at the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy at Remington already voted last week – for members of the alternative education school’s first student council.

Pathways Academy Student Council member Zach Perkett, of Central Valley, said he embraces taking on the responsibility of representing all of the Pathways students.

“I feel good. I feel great,” he said. “I won’t let them down, I’ll say that. I’ll do the best I can.”

The Pathways Academy at the former Remington Elementary School building in Ilion focuses on students who have had a difficult time in a traditional school structure or have to catch up on credits but have the ability to get a high school diploma. Pathways Academy classes are project-driven and infuse career and technical education.

Herkimer BOCES Principal of Alternative Education Patrick Corrigan proposed the idea of electing students to a Pathways Academy Student Council. Pathways Academy social studies teachers Joelle Yost, Matt Gardner and Greg Jaros then taught students about elections and helped run the Pathways Academy election. The election took place on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and the winners were announced on Friday, Nov. 2.

The students elected to the Student Council were:

  • Perkett;

  • Zach Maida, of Poland;

  • Brandon Sorce, of Poland;

  • Curtis Walker, of Mount Markham;

  • Evan Aney, of West Canada Valley, and

  • Harmony Miller, of Frankfort-Schuyler.

The council

The Pathways Academy Student Council was set up through the Pathways Academy Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Committee. The PBIS program includes starting off the school year with a several-day orientation activity focused on teamwork among students, teachers and staff. It also includes students earning “BOCES Bucks” for positive behavior that they can use on reward days to purchase items or experiences.

Having the Student Council under the umbrella of the PBIS program made the most sense, Corrigan said.

“We wanted to build onto our PBIS effort,” he said. “We want to have adults and students working together to create a positive atmosphere in the building.”

Students were elected by groups of grades – 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 – but all council members represent all of the students. The Student Council will meet at least once per month, but more likely twice per month – especially when a project is being worked on, Corrigan said.

“We have a solid basis here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

There’s always a value in having a student council, Corrigan said.

“Students see things that we don’t see,” he said. “So it’s really important to hear what they have to say. And often, they have really simple solutions.”

Sometimes, there won’t be a great solution to a problem, and that can be communicated to students more effectively through the Student Council as well, Corrigan said.

“That should go a long way,” he said.

The Student Council is a way for students to have a voice on activities and what happens in the building, Corrigan said.

“It gives them more ownership of their high-school experience,” he said.

The election

The election process started with students voting to nominate their peers to run for office. The candidates then made posters and participated in town hall meetings over the course of two days.

For the town hall meetings, candidates were given questions and had two days to prepare arguments for why they should be elected, Perkett said. The town halls took place on stage in front of other students.

“That was fun,” he said.

Perkett said there was a lot of discussion and debate during the town halls – with some arguing breaking out. He got used to the experience as it went on and realized students might be interested in hearing about his ideas.

“At first, it was nerve-wracking, but as you started speaking, you saw everyone was listening and some were shaking their heads, and you think, ‘This could get easier,’” he said.

Corrigan said the town halls went very well.

“I think there was a pretty healthy debate and a solid exchange of ideas,” he said.

During the election process, Perkett also made sure he talked to many students about ideas and what their interests and opinions were, and he made note of it all to help with his campaign.

“I kind of was like a spy, and I did my best go get everyone’s opinion,” he said.

Yost said students got into the election process – with signs all over the hallways and a variety of “crazy” slogans. Absentee ballots were used during the election, and many results were very close, she said.

“I think, especially my juniors and seniors, they really realized why it’s important to vote,” she said. “It makes them realize that they do have a voice, and they can make a difference.”

It’s important for students to have representation on a Student Council, Yost said.

“I think the general student population really sees that they do have a say, and it’s not just us running the show,” she said.

The future

Student Council members are excited about working with school officials and taking on the challenge.

“I like being more like an adult,” Maida said. “We all have that responsibility of actual adults.”

Maida said he hopes the council can help set up group activities such as clubs and sports.

“I know a lot of students in this school that like to play sports,” he said.

Miller said it’s important for students to have a Student Council now.

“Because we can have the students’ ideas be used instead of just listening to teachers all the time,” she said.

Perkett said adding the Student Council to the mix at Pathways will be beneficial.

“It’s always good to change something,” he said.

Corrigan suggested “improving” things might be a better way to put it than “changing,” and he and Perkett then agreed on that sentiment.

Perkett said he is looking forward to everyone involved getting in a room together and getting all the ideas flying.

“That’s going to be really interesting,” he said.

A student election sign hanging in windows says Do you want Pathways to change? Vote Zach. He can make it happen.

An election sign for Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy at Remington Student Council member Zach Perkett, of Central Valley, sits in front of a window at Pathways on Monday, Nov. 5.

Student election sign hanging on Pathways wall says Student Council Vote For Harmony Miller.

An election sign for Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Pathways Academy at Remington Student Council member Harmony Miller, of Frankfort-Schuyler, hangs in a hallway at Pathways on Monday, Nov. 5.