Students need a seat at the table

Lowell students complain about the school’s administration constantly, be it about class schedules or responses to sensitive issues affecting the school community. Recipients of hasty and chaotic emails from administration, students have seen ideas and student input get tossed around and even ignored. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Choices around schedules and school policies define students’ day-to-day lives, so students need a more active role in these discussions. 

In order to make this happen, the Lowell administration needs to introduce a Principal’s Task Force of students and make School Site Council Meetings more accessible to the student body. Students need to then take advantage of these opportunities to make Lowell  the school they want it to be.

Last year, the administration made major decisions around Arena that left most student voices out. A series of changes to Arena rotations, announced less than a week before it started, led to student complaints and chaos. While making these decisions the administration only spoke with a group of seniors. Much of the later confusion and anger would have been avoided if more students had been involved. Engaging students would have lessened the amount of negative responses because students could have voiced their concerns earlier on, creating a plan that increased fairness and lessened student stress. Additionally, a recent SBC poll regarding student priorities around Arena attempted to increase student input, but it never merited a response from the administration, leaving the student leaders unclear on if student input would be implemented or even considered. After last year’s confusion, the current lack of response seems to continue this one-sided discourse. 

To solve the lack of student representation, students should have a direct connection to the administration to be part of the decision-making process. Lowell should establish the Principal’s Task Force, a core group of students who advise the principal. The group’s intent would be to promote equity by taking feedback and ideas from the general community directly to the principal. According to Assistant Principal Joe Dominguez, there were plans this fall to create the task force, but it was never able to get off the ground. This direct connection is a necessary way for student priorities to be known when decisions are made, and should be created by administration next year. And for this to be effective students must sign up and actively engage with both the community and administration. 

To solve the lack of student representation, students should have a direct connection to the administration to be part of the decision-making process.

Meetings for the School Site Council (SSC) should also be made more accessible to students. The SCC is the primary policy-making body at Lowell, planning everything from bell schedules to admissions to budgetary allocations for the school year. Access would allow students to have a say in what programs and AP classes get funded. Currently, in order to attend, students have to fill out a form on Lowell’s website or contact math teacher Karl Hoffman for the link, but neither method is well known. The meetings should be made more accessible, with the link and explanations of the role and powers of the SSC sent out to the student body. Students need to take advantage of this opportunity so that their opinions are addressed and any concerns are cleared up.

The lack of opportunities for student input isn’t all admin’s fault, nor will these solutions completely fix the problem. According to Dominguez, issues around sharing information often begin at the district level, with last-minute policy decisions making it difficult for the administration to communicate information to students. This past year, SFUSD released the school day schedule requirements for distance learning just two weeks before the beginning of the year, leaving Lowell administrators little time to plan class schedules. Students received the schedule on Aug. 12, less than a week before the school year started. With the administration scrambling to fit their plans into last-minute district guidelines, there wasn’t time for a lengthy decision making process involving input from students. However, this isn’t true for all decisions, and having students help advise the administration would reduce the back-and-forth improving the administrative process, even when the district cannot make timely decisions. 

As students it is our right to be involved in these processes. The solutions are there; they only need to be acted upon. As Lowell begins the next school year with a new principal and at least one new assistant principal, the administration has a perfect opportunity to create more chances for student input by implementing the Principal’s Task Force and encouraging attendance to the School Site Council. Once these opportunities are created, students need to take advantage of the SSC meetings and apply for the Principal’s Task Force so they can be more engaged in the decisions at Lowell. We ask that Lowell administrators implement these changes and that students take full advantage of them to create a school community that fosters communication and transparency.