Our Community Council: Paving The Way For Democracy

April 13, 2016

In 1992, the Community Council was established as Souhegan’s governing body. Our Council is one of the two completely democratic schools in New Hampshire, along with Hanover. This differs from most schools in that the Council is comprised of students, community members, and teachers. Our Council doesn’t just plan activities, but also sets policies and other important proposals. Being democratic and everyone getting an equal vote is what makes our Council so effective. Some other schools in the area have recognized that, and have been coming to visit and learn from us.

One of these schools was the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, which is located in Devens, Massachusetts. Their Community Council came and toured Souhegan, did a Q & A with some people from the Souhegan Community Council, and also came to a Council meeting. Another school was Hollis-Brookline, who came for a Q & A and a Council meeting. Both groups loved the school, and admired how much trust and responsibility our Council has.

At both schools, their Councils do not include community members, whereas our Council has ten. One of the teachers visiting from Parker asked where the community members and teachers were during the meeting and were surprised to see them mixed in with the students, chatting and discussing different topics. Hollis-Brookline was very surprised. They have a Student Council, which is made up student representatives that essentially plan school events, fundraise, and approve or disapprove new activities and clubs at the school. They were very surprised how our Council is structured and the power our Council has.

Picture of Paul
Paul Schlotman Community Council Advisor

According to Souhegan teacher and Community Council member Paul Schlotman, one of the benefits of the Souhegan Council is that, “everyone’s voice is heard, and is welcome at the table. No one holds grudges or are mean after someone speaks’ everyone gets a vote, and no one vote is more powerful than another,” Paul told the story of how one of the teachers from the Parker School said that she didn’t think the faculty at their school would allow their students to make the tough decisions our Council does. They didn’t think the students could handle it. He responded by saying you need to start by really thinking about some of the issues you want to start to throw at the students and the faculty, and they will surprise you with what they can do.

Hollis-Brookline visited after Fang Fest, so that was covered in the Q & A. One of their members named Khushi said she was, “very excited about our Fang Fest,” and hoped to take some of our aspects and use it during their spirit week at their school.
Cam, the Hollis Brookline student body president, thought his whole experience with our Council was, “awesome. It was very beneficial, and lots of information was given. I hope to implement some parts at our school in the future.”

Both schools are intrigued by the Souhegan democratic approach and are interested in having it at theirs. Having teachers, students, and community representatives on our Council gives a variety of opinions on the important issues. There seemed to be a general consensus that our Council was worth the time to see and experience first hand.

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