New year, new representation: Zoe Boyd takes on the role of student representative to the board


Photo Courtesy of Zoe Boyd

Zoe Boyd poses for a picture before her first board meeting as a student representative.

With the arrival of a new school year came the time to elect a new student representative to the District 99 board. Chosen from a pool of applicants by Principal Edward Schwartz, senior Zoe Boyd has been chosen to take on the role for the 2020-2021 school year. With students hoping to have their opinions heard on plans the board has for learning during the pandemic, Boyd is responsible for capturing the various and strong opinions of the student body — despite her peers being harder to reach than ever before.

The practice of having a student representative on the board is intended as a tool for ensuring adult board members can hear students’ perspectives on issues and decisions that impact them. District 99 superintendent, Dr. Hank Thiele, states that having students’ voices at the table is a chief part of the board’s work.

“Everything we do in District 99 is for students. We discuss matters related to students and ultimately make decisions that will impact students in the future. It is important to hear a student perspective as we do this work,” Thiele said.

Schwartz shares how he has seen first hand the impact that having a student representative can create.
“It really helps the board members, the adult volunteer board members, stay focused on kids because now there’s kids sitting right there. It’s different than if you’re just off talking about kids, but when kids are part of the conversation, it helps keep that focus,” Schwartz said.

Tasked with the job of choosing the student representative, Schwartz was responsible for reading and assessing each application. When comparing applicants, Schwartz kept a few key qualities in mind.

“[They] have to have a big picture [of the school] because [they’re] representing the entire student body. It has to be somebody that can look beyond their circle of friends and themselves to see how the rest of the school might be experiencing [something]. I look for someone who is empathetic, who can take that position from someone else’s vantage point,” Schwartz said.

While capturing the various perspectives of DGS’s student body may seem overwhelming, it’s a job that Schwartz felt Boyd was equipped to take on.

“Zoe’s been involved in a lot of things around here. I really liked that diverse set of experiences she had because that gives her a good perspective from a lot of viewpoints,” Schwartz said.

In addition to her involvement in school activities, Boyd has experience in communication. As a seasoned speech and debate team state competitor, Boyd is able to take her communication skills and apply them to her work as student representative.

“I think that this role is pretty much based on communication, talking with students and teachers, listening to them and understanding, relaying that information and communicating questions, concerns and comments to the board. I’m very much a speech nerd, so I deeply value communication in all aspects of life, but I think it comes in particularly handy in a position where your main job is to try and accurately represent your peers,” Boyd said.

Along with communication, Boyd places a particular emphasis on being empathetic. Boyd shares how an “empathetic ear” is one of the key skills her position calls for.

“As far as being empathetic, I think that it’s also a skill that someone in this type of position needs to have, because as much as board meetings can be about more technical school topics [such as] finances, staff training, etc, these topics still directly affect the District 99 community. I think that if you want to accurately represent a community you have to be willing to listen with an empathetic ear, even when you may not understand or agree with every person,” Boyd said.

As a student representative to the board, Boyd has a variety of responsibilities, including attending two monthly meetings. During these meetings she does not vote on anything, but can ask questions and provide student perspectives for consideration from the board. For workshop meetings she prepares a brief summary of important events that have happened around the school in the past month, such as sports achievements, activities, music and drama productions, in addition to the general atmosphere of the student body.

Though this workload may seem particularly overwhelming due to the pandemic, Thiele shares that Boyd has managed the task well.

“Zoe is genuinely interested in the work of the board and comes prepared for every meeting. She obviously has prepared and is ready to contribute. [Her] reports each month on [DGS] have been exemplary and she has represented the student experience at South High this year well,” Thiele said.

While students learn remotely, Boyd has been forced to find new ways to gather feedback from her peers. Utilizing technology has been particularly effective, enabling Boyd to contact and interact with the student body while remaining socially distant from them.

“I rely on technology to get feedback from my peers. I try to utilize every medium and opportunity I have, like social media, texting, calling, zoom classes during free time/breakout rooms if appropriate and asking my friends and classmates for perspectives from younger siblings that I may not have as much of a chance to interact with, “ Boyd said.

Capturing the vast array of perspectives at DGS can be formidable. Aware of her role as a representative for the entire student body, Boyd remains conscientious of her duty to represent every student’s perspectives by striving to represent everyone rather than a select few.

“One thing I’m always trying to be conscious of is that I’m not underrepresenting or misrepresenting anyone in the student body. It can be a bit hard to get a wide variety of feedback when I see mostly the same people in my classes, so I feel like I need to work extra hard on seeking out and relaying multiple perspectives,” Boyd said.

Despite the inherent challenges of her role, Boyd has found fulfillment in her ability to bring the conversations she has with the school community into conversations that impact them.

“For me, my most gratifying experience is being able to have a good, honest conversation with someone that you care about, and then having the power to bring those perspectives to people who can really benefit from hearing them,” Boyd said.

Boyd will continue to serve in her position for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. She shares her personal hopes for what she will achieve during her tenure.

“My biggest goals are to bring positivity into the community by reaching out to people one on one and using my position to help effect changes that will make life for students and teachers a little bit easier,” Boyd said.