Education

State Board of Education welcomes student voices after three year absence

Student representation returned to the State Board of Education this month after missing for three years due to political infighting between the board and State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

New high school advisers, Meredith Gaskill, a Carson High School senior from Rowan-Salisbury Public Schools and Nate Kolk-Tomberlin, a junior from Apex High School in Wake County, were introduced during the board’s Sept. 5 business meeting.

Meredith Gaskill

“I believe that I can bring a fair and balanced view of my peers to the board as well as offer the board a wide variety of student opinion,” Kolk-Tomberlin told the board.

Gaskill said she was excited to be a part of the board and the “opportunity to learn and contribute.”

North Carolina law authorized the governor to appointment two high school students to serve as advisers to the state board, but the Republican-led General Assembly handed the authority to the state superintendent in a power grab that led to a lengthy legal battle.

Nate Kolk-Tomberlin

The legal wrangling ended with the State Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of House Bill 17, which rearranged the responsibilities of the superintendent and transferred certain powers of the state board to Johnson as well as the authority to appoint student advisers to the board.

Johnson said in April that he couldn’t appoint students to the board until after the legal questions around HB 17 were answered.

“That entire law was put on hold for a year and a half because of lawsuits, so nobody could appoint a student adviser,” Johnson said in April. “When the court proceedings were finally finished in summer of 2018, that is when it took the restraining order off of that law and I had the ability to appoint a student adviser.”

Two high students — Greear Webb and Myles Cyrus – nudged Johnson in April with compelling arguments for bringing student advisers back to the board.

“If we are in the room where the decisions are made, we can clearly and intentionally help you to structure our education in the most effective and successful way possible,” said Webb, a Sanderson High School graduate who now attends UNC-Chapel Hill.

Cyrus is a 2019 graduate of Fike High School in Wilson. He now attends Wake Forest University.

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