Q&A with Ronnie Mosley, honorary student member, Chicago School Board

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Students attending schools on the city’s South and West Sides don’t necessarily receive the same high-quality education as students in the district’s elite North Side schools, says Ronnie Mosley, a 17-year-old Simeon Career Academy senior. Mosley leads a group of nine CPS students chosen recently by the School Board to “shadow” Board President Rufus Williams and attend regular monthly board meetings. The group is slated to soon begin their own meetings to discuss issues that concern students and craft possible solutions to present to the board by the end of the school year. Mosley, who is also the student representative on Simeon’s local school council, has applied to Morehouse College in Atlanta and plans to major in business administration and political science. After attending his first board meeting in October, he talked with writer Hope Evans after attend about what he would do to improve public schools in Chicago.

Q: What did you learn during your first experience on the board? 

A: I had to be patient because the board meetings are long and you really want to get the meaning of what the participants are saying during [public participation]. You want to know what are their issues are and how you can solve them. 

Q: Do you think you bring a unique perspective to the board’s deliberations?

A: [CPS] needs student input. We need a student’s voice directly, instead of having to use scenarios that may not necessarily be true to students’ lives. My voice is valuable, not just because it’s my voice, but because I represent all of the students across the city.

One issue that was highly debated was the opening of Pride Campus. I did some research with Mikva Challenge’s Youth Health Council on the mental health of students, and found that depression is one of the leading causes of student suicides. And unfortunately, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered youth community had an alarmingly high rate of suicide because they felt depressed. They were in environments where they didn’t feel safe or accepted and felt like they had no one to go to.

My perspective is that, if the students truly feel that they want [the school] and believe that it will help them achieve more, [CPS] should give it to them. [Editor’s note: The proposal to open the Pride Campus was withdrawn after this interview was conducted.]

Q: What do you think your fellow students would say about what needs to be improved in CPS?

A: They would most definitely say school funding needs to be fixed.  We had a teacher come down to the board meeting to ask for money for a [building] additions because the school had good test scores and high graduation rates, and a lot of students wanted to come. But they had to turn people away because they didn’t have enough room. We need to have resources for both successful and underachieving schools in order for CPS to be successful as a whole.

Q:  What does your student group plan to discuss?

A: We were asked [by the board] to narrow down the biggest problems CPS faces. We identified three. First is improving education, so that students are able to compete nationally and globally. Then, safety and security–it’s important to make sure that students feel safe while they’re in school so they can achieve their highest potential for learning. And last, health. This is often overlooked, but it plays a key role when it comes to just being able to think and achieve better test scores and higher grades. 

Q: What districtwide policy would you enact to immediately improve schools?

A: I would like to see schools become more like universities that have colleges of business and colleges of arts. I would like to see schools develop a focus, to not only prepare you for college, but also prepare you for your future career. I also would like to see more business programs in general. Entrepreneurship is one of the leading ways for our generation to become successful, to help improve our economy, and to become better analytical thinkers, which is important.

Q: What can teachers do to improve classrooms overall?

A: They should all learn the newest hands-on teaching techniques. I had a teacher in 4th grade, and I absolutely loved to come to school because she made everything interesting and inviting. It was such a hands-on experience, and I really believe that’s where I mastered all of the basics of education.