San Diego County Unified School District

11/09/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/08/2019 19:59

Momentous election puts student voice in the spotlight

San Diego's newest elected representative is eager to get to work.

Securing victory with a 56 percent majority of votes in last month's runoff election, the new officeholder already has plans for many of the issues his constituents care about. He's ambitious and optimistic about the future of his city, and more specifically, its schools.

He's also in tenth grade.

Meet Zachary Patterson, University City High School sophomore and the first ever duly elected San Diego Unified student board member.

'Our views and insights matter more today than ever before,' Patterson said. 'The decisions that are being made right now are the ones that will determine our future, and the future of all generations after us.'

Earlier this year, the San Diego Unified Board of Education accepted a student petition and authorized installment of a student board representative, in line with California Education Code 35012. Six high school students from across the city then filed documents of candidacy for this first ever election, from which the top two candidates were selected for a runoff; only San Diego Unified high school students were allowed to vote.

After thousands of students cast their ballots through a secure online portal, Patterson edged out Benefice Nisumbavyose of San Diego High School to become the first official student board member.

'I am so excited to work with students from across San Diego Unified in order to create a school district that is for the students, by the students,' Patterson said. 'I have the honor to represent the more than 105,000 students that make up our district.'

In his new formally defined role, Patterson will serve alongside the five trustees on the Board of Education. In addition to providing students with a public voice on the Board, he will also participate in discussions and exercise preferential voting rights. While the student vote legally cannot affect the numerical outcome of the Board of Education vote, it will be expressed and recognized publicly.

Already having served as a student representative for the San Diego Council of PTAs, Patterson is no stranger to representative leadership or the San Diego Unified Board. In fact, he was a driving force in getting the new student board position created, initiating the student-driven petition and first presenting the formal proposal to the Board while in ninth grade.

'I think my biggest challenge will be showing the Board and adults as a whole that I have the ability to effectively serve as a member,' Patterson said. 'From closing the achievement gap to working on student-to-teacher accountability, I know that the ideas of my fellow students will allow for the successful representation of all of us.'

Patterson will be formally sworn in at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, December 10th.