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Last-Ditch Appeal: Student Influences Superintendent’s Decision

Every school district leader works to invite student feedback. Many use that feedback to help set priorities and ensure student and parent satisfaction.

But how many superintendents use student feedback as personal career advice?

That’s what happened at Ypsilanti Community Schools in Michigan recently, when a last-minute appeal from sixth-grader Jeremiah Wade convinced Superintendent Ben Edmondson to stay with the district after considering another position.

Wade was the first of 19 people who voiced their support for Edmonson during a district school board meeting, according to MLive Ann Arbor. But Edmondson says it was Wade’s comments specifically that spurred him to withdraw his name from consideration at Okemos Schools, also in Michigan. As Edmondson told MLive:

“His words made me think of the countless other children with whom I have had contact and may be influencing. This was not a business decision but a decision based on my love, respect, and relationships.”

So what did Wade say to convince Edmondson to stay?

According to MLive, Wade told the board that Edmondson had become a vital part of his life and a major reason for his success:

“Not often do I see leaders in my school that look like me (Edmondson and Wade are both African-American). Having Dr. E as a superintendent made me realize that I have people that support me other than my parents. I have grown to love Dr. E and it would be sad to see him leave. Please do everything that you can to keep him in the district. Dr. E, I support you the same way you support me.”

Superintendent tenures are notoriously short. In some cases, administrators are dismissed in the wake of political conflicts with the local school board or for poor performance. Some, like Edmonson, simply choose to leave for other opportunities or in the midst of contentious contract renegotiations. Had Edmonson decided to leave, Ypsilanti would have been forced to hire its fourth superintendent in as many years.

It’s refreshing then to see a superintendent make a student decision over a career one, even in the face of an ongoing contract dispute.

Wade’s appeal shows just how important strong student voice can be in shaping the course of a school or district.

What steps is your district taking to amplify student voice? How do you collect and respond to student feedback? Tell us in the comments.