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Seniors Share Experiences as Members of Superintendent's Cadre
June 5, 2024 -- The students recommended for the Superintendent’s Cadre ideally represent the experiences of their peers across various groups, clubs, and classes at the high school. The six seniors finishing up their Cadre experience this year do just that, as members of AVID, MSAN (Minority Student Achievement Network), Singers, Barbershop, Gospel Choir, student council, class council, band, orchestra, symphony, softball, track and field, swim, cheerleading, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Image Makers, Principals’ Partners, MetroHealth’s Youth Advisory Council, Career Technical Education/clinical health careers program, Muslim Students Association, National Honor Society, drama club, and SWAG (Student Wellness Advisory Group).

In short, these kids have been busy. But they always make time for their monthly meetings with Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby as trusted members of her Cadre. For a cohort of students who finished middle school and began high school from behind computer screens, without access to peers or clubs or social interaction, having the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns with the Superintendent and brainstorm solutions gave them a sense of purpose and belonging.

“This was definitely a great start to high school, especially during the pandemic,” said Dashara Turner, who will attend the University of Cincinnati as a psychology major on a pre-med track next year. “I could share my friends’ experiences and concerns with her directly and she’d listen and respond.” 

Kirby’s willingness to truly listen to her Cadre members made an impact on all the seniors. “It feels like Superintendent Kirby really listens to us. She pays attention, takes notes and brings our ideas back to her team,” said Margo Burke, who will major in Defense and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the fall. 

“I feel like I was able to have my voice heard,” said Nia Baker who joined Cadre upon returning to the district after two years at Hathaway Brown. “If I noticed something I’d like to see changed, I could speak up and she always acted like our opinions were valid. I’m grateful to Superintendent Kirby because I don’t feel like I would have gotten that experience in any other district.” 

As she heads to the University of Akron to study English literature and English education, Nia found it interesting to witness how Kirby juggles all of her responsibilities. “It’s kind of like being President of the United States, but on a smaller scale,” she said. “There are so many perspectives she has to consider.”

That was one of the things that Qyra Basit appreciated most about her interactions with the Superintendent. “Nowadays, the number one excuse you hear is ‘I’m not the boss, take it higher up.’ But she is the boss and everything was important to her. She showed me a new perspective on leadership by focusing on the little things. Because the little things lay the foundation for the bigger things.” Qyra will take those lessons with her to the University of Cincinnati where she’ll study Criminal Justice. “Ms. Kirby was always open to compromise. She showed us how much she cared by listening, using our advice and moving forward.” 

Karim Azzam, who will study Political Science at American University in the fall, feels like Cadre “was incredibly empowering. It gave us the right to speak and have an open dialogue about how to better our school and district for students, teachers and staff.” He felt a strong sense of responsibility to his fellow classmates to serve as their representative and bring their issues higher up. “It showed me what a healthy workplace looks like, where all ideas are respected.”

Jordan Evans agrees, saying, “I definitely learned to value my own opinions and share how I felt even if it was controversial. It made me more comfortable and confident with public speaking.” She’s especially proud of the work Cadre did in reaching out to the district’s middle schoolers to prepare them for high school. Between visiting Monticello and Roxboro to speak with 8th graders and participating in freshman orientation, “I think the 8th graders are going to be ten times more prepared than I was,” said Jordan, who will attend Ohio State University in the fall to study music.
Cadre members are also proud of the work they did helping to create the district’s new dress code. After many drafts and a lot of back and forth, taking many perspectives into consideration, Nia feels they came up with something “that isn’t restrictive or misogynistic and lets students express themselves while still being school appropriate.” Margo agrees that they learned a lot throughout this process, including having to think about all the various constituents, such as safe footwear for elementary students spending part of their day on playground equipment. 

Many students mentioned the importance of mental health and how critical it was for them to be able to bring the issues of their peers directly to the Superintendent. “We all had issues after Covid,” said Qyra. “It took time but we’re finally seeing that the school really understands that and is providing more support.”

Karim agrees, referring to several tragedies that befell the district this past winter. “How can we better help with mental health, get the social workers involved, and really address the issues? I’m thankful to have been part of the group that worked so hard on that.”

Dashara, who considers herself a youth activist, credits her time on Cadre for “making me comfortable expressing myself to people in positions of authority without being nervous of being shut down.” That’s a powerful lesson for young people just about to step into adult roles. And one that Superintendent Kirby is certain they’ll use wisely.

“The 2024 members of the student Cadre are extremely special,” she said. “I can’t wait to see how they learn, grow and lead as they graduate. I know they will continue to make the world a better place as they have done in our district.”

superintendent's cadre - karim azzam
superintendent's cadre - nia baker
superintendent's cadre - qyra basit
superintendent's cadre - margo burke
superintendent's cadre - jordan evans
superintendent's cadre - dashara turner