Student leaders are spread too thinly

Senior Meghan Mercurio, a Leadership Legacy Commissioner and Fundraising Merchandise Commissioner, was one of the emcees at the Little Big Game rally, along with Jasmine Samsami.

Senior Meghan Mercurio, a Leadership Legacy Commissioner and Fundraising Merchandise Commissioner, was one of the emcees at the Little Big Game rally, along with Jasmine Samsami.

Sophomore Olivia McCaa thought she was to perform solely in the background of her grade’s dance at the Little Big Game Rally in front of the entire school. She thought wrong.

Two days before the rally, the sophomore skit had not yet been choreographed. After it became clear that the people in charge of it had backed out, the responsibility fell to her and some other students. They met once to decide on the song and hastily made up dance moves during the first three periods on rally day.

McCaa attributed the dance debacle to internal issues between the sophomore class cabinet and the Leadership class.

“[The sophomore class cabinet] was supposed to find people to set that up, and I think there was a lot of miscommunication,” McCaa said.

This occurrence is a prime example of the disjointedness of the student bureaucracy at Burlingame High School. Things fall through the cracks very easily. To coordinate the rest of the student body, designated leaders need to have focus and unity. Right now, they have neither.

It seems wrong to blame the disconnect between the Leadership class, class cabinets, and the Service Commission class to mere slacking off. To do so would only be comprehensible if one did not understand the roles of each organization.

There is a definite hierarchy among these groups, specifically between Leadership, the class cabinets, and Service Commission. Although several students are simultaneously involved in more than one, they are separate organizations.

In theory, the Leadership class, lead by members of the Associated Student Body (ASB) Cabinet, functions as the brain of the student government. The class cabinets organize activities for their own grades, and members of the Service Commission class volunteer to work on hand at school events.

In the case of Leadership, the amount of responsibilities differs from student to student.

“If everyone wanted to be a leader [in the class], nothing would get done. If everyone was a follower, nothing would get done,” ASB vice-president Priya Koliwad said. “And a lot of things get done at our school, so it shows that we have a good mix.”

She’s not wrong in her description of the class’ productivity. The Leadership class plans rallies and spirit days throughout the year, creates a multitude of posters, organizes clubs and holds many fundraisers and charity drives.  The amount of activities with which Leadership is involved demonstrates that work ethic is not the issue at hand.

Rather, it is the fact that all students in the class have separate authority on so many different topics, from “spirit” to “health and wellness.” Every single person has an official title. The class is divided up into “commissions”, which are groups of students with roles that have similar aims and are led by members of the ASB cabinet.

This decentralized system would work if every single commissioner was a “leader,” but like Koliwad said, there is a “mix” of commitment. Because members of the class focus on so many things at once, every single person has the responsibilities of a leader. This division of work does not necessarily correspond to the amount of effort that different students are willing to contribute to the class.

None of the individuals in the Leadership class are responsible for this conundrum. Many go the extra mile, as staying late after school to complete duties is common.

“When people come into Leadership, initially, they are very overwhelmed,” ASB President Tori Crisostomos-Rickman said. “There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of people you have to meet, whether it be Admin or Ms. Mosqueda, you’re gonna have to make a lot of connections with those people. And then again, there is so much paperwork.”

Yet because singular efforts of Leadership students are divided into so many different causes, and because the makeup of class authority does not reflect the range in student diligence, they are less successful than they could be.

Without concentrated focus, student leaders are stretched too thinly, leading to coordination issues with other organizations on campus, as seen with the miscommunication over the sophomore skit.

Last year, the ASB president, Johnny Kershner, who has since graduated, introduced a measure that would require grade cabinet presidents to join Leadership.

“From a Leadership perspective,” Crisostomo-Rickman noted, “a lot of students were interested in this to get class cabinets more informed in our activities.”

However, it did not get enough votes to be passed. Opponents of the measure argued that it would be unnecessary to mandate students to participate in an elective class that is neither a CTE or an art, and does not offer any graduation credits.

Kershner’s attempt at centralization might have failed, but it did shed light on the complexity of the student bureaucracy at BHS.

Giving students authority is clearly a balancing act. It might need more fine tuning.

Posted on November 28, 2017 .