Does Council Really Do Anything?
“Council doesn’t do anything.” It’s something that every Council member will hear first-hand from their peers. Is this sentiment due to a lack of communication between the student body and Council, or does it actually hold some truth? Is Council truly having an impact on the school community, as it was designed to do?
It’s easy to point to significant past legislation, such as the introduction of March Intensive in 2005, the Condom Distribution motion in 2015, and the banning of smoking on campus in the late ‘70s. However, those were all a long time ago. I have been a member of Council for the past four years, and decided to examine them to determine if Council did anything substantial or if it has fallen to the wayside and solely become a way for students to beef up their college applications.
My first year as a Council rep was interesting as a new student to Hanover High but pretty slow, all things considered. Council Moderator Colm Seigne presided over meetings where students and staff mainly discussed allocations, x-periods, and freshmen off campus. Early in the term, Council passed a motion that required all classes to have at least one x-period per week.
Aside from that, Council focused on clearing up the wording of the HHS Handbook and Council Bylaws, notably by updating the cell phone and attendance policies to fit more in line with the practiced procedures. In addition, Council discussed the use of music speakers in public spaces and adding a community service requirement for graduation.
Under Moderator Ian Nolon, my sophomore year on Council was filled with discussions, failed motions, and various allocations. This year had fewer meetings due to executive sessions and the COVID-19 lockdown. Before going remote, Council discussed the addition of a pledge written by Mr. Murphy and one of his Citizenship and World History sections. If not failed, it would have been read as part of the Friday morning announcements as follows: “We stand for Hanover High School, and we pledge to be courteous to others, to be honest, to respect our environment, and to strive to learn and grow in a healthy manner each day.”
There were also talks about removing homework over the holiday break in December. However, Council determined that to lessen the amount of “work pressure points,” the holiday break should remain a vacation where teachers can assign work. Also, amid nationwide school violence, Council discussed adding a school resource officer to our school, but this proposition was met with much pushback from students.
Council achieved little after going remote in March of 2020, save for a bylaw revision and an allocation to the Student Life Committee. If there was ever a time when Council was not exciting for students, staff, and the community, it was 2019-2020.
However, you could call it the calm before the storm.
This year’s discussions happened over Zoom every Wednesday. Pretty quickly, Moderator Sage McGinley-Smith figured out how to run a meeting virtually, and the new platform made meetings more accessible.
For the first time in over two decades, Council added additional student reps in the form of two online-only students. Later Council discussed changes made to the “COVID Handbook” (a temporary handbook written specifically for dealing with the pandemic), like requiring teachers to post assignments on the template as well as on the Schoology calendar, although this motion was later failed. JComm was addressed the Council body first time since I entered High School and resulted in
a handbook revision to the school dress code.
On December 16th Julia Cook brought the “Mascot Motion” to “remove the marauder as the mascot of HHS” because of its violent connotations. This sparked a fierce divide in the school. People scoffed at Council for not being a representative body because more than 90% of students and staff who filled out a survey on the matter wanted to keep the marauder.
The initial motion failed, but there was more to talk about. A Mascot Ad Hoc committee was formed with the intent to do research about the logistics of removing the marauder. Approximately three months later, the committee shared its findings with Council, the staff, and the school board. Council voted to remove the marauder as the HHS mascot on March 17, 2021.
Following the removal, another Ad Hoc committee was introduced, the New Mascot Selection and Implementation committee, to iron out the logistics of selecting a new mascot.
Also, something that happened this year: Freshman finally got the ability to go off campus during the second semester. A motion that has come to Council again and again for fifty years was finally approved.
This year largely focused on dealing with the fallout of the previous year’s decisions. Council played its power card in changing the mascot, and the HHS community was paying attention
like never before. Things started slow, with the first few meetings reaching notes and new business just halfway through the period.
However, things picked up after the Mascot committee discovered that the winning designs of the new mascot election were plagiarized late in the fall. The committee had to reassess how the election process would work, which took a few months. The committee restarted the process with a name election and then, later, a design competition. Finally, as of May 11, 2022, after more than a year of discussion, debate, and
research, Hanover High School got a brand new mascot: the bear!
Council has also discussed leveling Social Studies courses by adding an Honors option. The discussions have raised questions such as what constitutes an ‘Honors’ class, and whether adding Honors level Social Studies would pressure students into taking on more than they can handle. The resolution ultimately failed, although the Social Studies Department continues to discuss adding a set of Honors level classes.
Council passed a Course Standardization Handbook revision that standardized the lateness, grading, and testing policies for courses that are taught by different teachers (i.e., English 9 is taught by multiple different English teachers) so that certain students aren’t improperly advantaged from being placed in a class with a teacher who has more lenient policies. In addition, Council passed a motion that allows students to reschedule one test if they have three scheduled for the same day. Throughout the year, Council also made additions and altered the Bylaws on committee responsibility and handbook cell phone policy.
Although my time as moderator has not been as sexy as fighting a sexist dress code or approving the Code of Conduct, I think it is clear that Council does a whole lot. The motions Council has passed in my four years alone have changed our school quite a bit, and the effects will continue to live on far past my graduation in June, and past your graduation too.
But you have read what I have written. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. And hey! Maybe come to Council to see some of this history play out in real-time.
*This article was first printed in a special edition of the Broadside that celebrated Council’s 50th Anniversary.