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Open letter from Sonoma Valley High School student voice

Sonoma Valley High School Student Voice Dominic Tommasi represented the SVHS student body at his last school board meeting on May 8. The Student Voice is an elected student government position at SVHS. Tommasi will swim and play water polo at Santa Rosa Junior College next year. SVHS junior Gavin Lehane will assume his post as Student Voice.

Dear members of the board, administrators, teachers, community members and students of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District,

I am honored and privileged to have been elected by my peers to represent the students of Sonoma Valley High School at this year’s school district board meetings.

While sitting in on the board meetings I have witnessed a multitude of important agenda items that affect all members of the district. From the concerns over correcting the budget, the remodel of the high school campus and searching for a new superintendent, a few themes continued to surface – the prevalent needs and shortcomings that have hindered the success of the entire district and created many of the issues we have been focused on resolving.

While it is easy to assign blame and point fingers when things are not going well, I encourage the community to stand united in working toward a better district for all of the students who are seeking an education here. I do believe that everyone wants the best for our kids, but before anything can get better we have to admit that we are not perfect, we are not always right, we make mistakes and sometimes things don’t always go our way.

However, to reach the type of district we aspire to be, it is going to take some soul searching from every single person involved to make a commitment to improvement and being willing to work with others. Not for, not because of, but with each other for the benefit of all our kids. Because at the end of the day, the students are the keystone of the schools and their best interest should be at the core of any and all decisions.

Some issues that are very prevalent to me and my experience growing up in this district are that of race and cultural differences. I attended Flowery Elementary School and fluently speak Spanish, and many of my friends do not feel welcome participating in the activities from both the elementary and high school levels. So to begin, I ask all of our students to make a conscious effort to be inclusive and inviting in all activities. You know the issue is there, and even if you do not actively participate in it, by allowing it to happen you are equally responsible.

Along the same line of inclusiveness, I would like to suggest that the school board meetings be held somewhere other than a police station because many of our families are not comfortable being in this space for a variety of reasons. I understand that the space is convenient, but it deters a large portion of district families from attending. I encourage every member of the district to make the decision to be inclusive, inviting and to take the initiative to take part in Sonoma Valley education.

Communication and transparency about the decisions being made consistently arose as a major complaint coming from the public. I feel that as the year has passed, we have improved on communicating at all levels, but there is always room to improve and there can never be too much communication when it comes to our kids.

We have plans to remodel our high school campus and furnish each school in the district. I hope that the district takes its time and ensures that the construction be of high quality that will benefit our students for years to come. The time and effort put into each campus reflects the time and effort put into the teachers and students, and it is obvious to the student body when the campus lacks in quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. Students and teachers will be far more inclined to do quality work and pay attention to detail themselves when they see the school around them doing the same.

Sonoma Valley High School Student Voice Dominic Tommasi represented the SVHS student body at his last school board meeting on May 8. The Student Voice is an elected student government position at SVHS. Tommasi will swim and play water polo at Santa Rosa Junior College next year. SVHS junior Gavin Lehane will assume his post as Student Voice.

In speaking with many fellow high school students, I was met overwhelmingly with the feeling that of all the leadership positions open currently in our district, from principal to superintendent, it is important that the person be willing and excited to get their hands in the soil and be able to connect with students on a personal level. These leadership positions will determine the culture of our schools from top to bottom, so please take these matters seriously and don’t rush into a decision to simply fill a role, but find the people who will lead our schools into the future. I ask that in the name of every single student in this Valley, that those of you who are making these decisions as to who will be the leader of our educational institutions takes the following into account: Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader, they set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role, but always about the goal.

Over my near completion of 12 years attending SVUSD schools, I have witnessed the power of working together and the failure of divisiveness. I have sat with this board and witnessed the administrative side of school. I have worked with administrators on numerous school projects and initiatives for the betterment of our campus and student life. I can say firsthand that the teachers of the district will do anything for our students, and I am displeased to hear that they are once again on the receiving end of salary cuts much undeserved for their countless hours of dedication to excellence in their crafts. Yet, most of all, I have been impressed the most by my fellow students, who demonstrate their excellence and individuality within their studies, extracurricular activities, community service and much more. I have seen students rise above the challenges at each educational level to make positive change in more than just their own lives, but the lives of others as well. I invite every single person who wishes to be involved in this district to take note of our students. We have been ready and we have been actively making change in our school communities every single day because we are invested in our education both inside and outside of the classroom. Join us, listen to the pulse of the young people excited to make change in the world. The students are committed to excellence, and excellence is not achieved through a single act or action, but through continuous habit. So let us make it a habit to work together for all of our students and all of our teachers so the young people who wish to make a difference in this world can achieve their full excellence.