Sidnie Boadwine’s story starts with a strike and ends with a pandemic.
The 18-year-old Battle Ground High School senior has had a front-row seat to some of the most consequential events for her school district. Since she was sworn in as a student representative to the school board in 2018, she’s lent her perspective as the board has responded to boundary changes, sexual health education curriculum and the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It’s an intersection of student and government leadership that Boadwine said has given her a deeper understanding of policy, as well as a sense of power in advocating for her fellow students.
“I never thought I would casually have conversations with our superintendent,” Boadwine said. “It has taught me so much about talking to people … and not being afraid.”
Student representatives are uncommon in Washington. The Washington State School Directors’ Association estimates that about 20 percent of school boards have a student member.
The Battle Ground school district, meanwhile, has two: Boadwine, and the junior representative, Battle Ground High School student Addelynn Smith. Student representatives’ terms last for two years, and Boadwine is the first since the program began in 2018 to complete hers. She heads to Boise State University this fall to study medical science.
“I’m trying to think of other students who would be willing to put in that much time, and there are very few,” said language arts teacher Heather Smithline, who nominated Boadwine for the position two years ago. “It takes up so much of their lives.”
Student representatives attend all board meetings, workshops and public forums. They don’t vote — they’re appointed by the school board, not elected — but school board president Troy McCoy said Boadwine’s perspective has been helpful on high-profile issues.
“Just recently they’ve been really helpful as far as sharing experiences on remote learning, what kind of graduation events they would like,” McCoy said.
“It has felt like the student reps have more responsibility,” Boadwine said, adding that she’s reported back to the board on how online learning is going, how her teachers are feeling, what life at home looks like and more.
“We have even more input and more responsibility now,” she said. “Our input is what matters at the end of the day.”
But a pandemic hasn’t been the only eventful period during Boadwine’s tenure. She was sworn in as teachers in Battle Ground and across the state prepared to go on strike following the resolution of the McCleary school funding lawsuit.
Boadwine recalled being sworn in with a sea of red-clad teachers behind her.
“All the teachers smiled at me because it was my first board meeting,” she said. “It was a long process and really hard for a lot of people.”
Boadwine also had the difficult job of keeping time for public commenters during the school board’s debate over sexual health curriculum, which drew pressure from Battle Ground’s politically and religiously conservative population.
“It’s a lot for high school kids,” she said. “These are adults who are getting up there for three minutes and spilling everything. Everyone has a right to say what they feel, but it’s a lot to hear sometimes.”
It hasn’t all been drama, though. Boadwine championed the return of a policy allowing seniors to decorate their graduation caps.
“That’s more my job, the stuff that comes from students themselves,” she said.
Unfortunately, Boadwine won’t be able to see the fruits of her labor. This would have been the first year students could have decorated their caps, but the coronavirus means in-person ceremonies won’t be held.
Boadwine understands, though, and besides, at least next year’s seniors will be able to enjoy this small legacy she leaves.
“You really try to make everyone happy,” she said.
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