published Monday, February 14th, 2011

Valley Voices: Red Bank's Ortiz wears many hats

By Claire Cox / Valley Voices Staff Writer
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    At a recent Hamilton County Schools board meeting, student representative Nahomi Ortiz, Rhonda Thurman, George Ricks, Jeffrey Wilson, Dr. Jim Scales and Everett Fairchild, from left, discuss school issues.

From editing her school's yearbook, The Roar, to being an active member of the student council, Red Bank High School senior Nahomi Ortiz has spent many hours becoming successful in many areas.

In addition to her commitments to her school, Nahomi also serves as chairman of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council, which is composed of two students from each of Hamilton County's 17 high schools.

Her chairmanship also entitles her to act as the student representative to the Hamilton County School Board, which charges her with bringing the concerns of students throughout Hamilton County to the attention of the board.

Q: By what process were you selected for these positions?

A: I first had to run for chairman of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council. I wrote a speech and presented it to the rest of the council. Once elected, I automatically became a school-board member.

Q: What are the requirements of being the board's student representative?

A: A student must care about issues that are going on in our schools. They must be able to express their opinions with no problem.

Q: When do you meet with the school board, and what do you do at the meetings?

A: I meet once a month at the regular sessions, and I usually just observe. If I have any concerns, I am allowed to make comments, but I do not get a vote.

Q: How were you encouraged to pursue this?

A: I have a wonderful teacher, Ms. (Deb) Weiss, who believed that I would be great for the job. She told me to do some research and pay close attention to everything at every meeting. Thanks to her, I now have the title.

Q: What have you learned or experienced as student representative?

A I have witnessed firsthand many decisions that affect our schools. Even though I have not always agreed, I have learned a lot from just observing.

Q: What are some of those decisions?

A: An issue that always comes up in every single meeting is budget. Budget, budget, budget. An issue that has been brought to the attention of the public is the teacher [bonuses]. Some members think there are more efficient ways to use the money. I was surprised at the amount of discussion and how long they put off the deciding vote [to shelve the bonuses].

Q: What makes you interested in the Hamilton County School Board?

A: Since I have experience as a student in Hamilton County, I feel that I have a better idea of what students need and want. Something that really concerned students this year was the school calendar. The school board votes on the calendar, and I think the students should be well represented. Their opinions should be valued since they are the ones who sit in the classroom all year long.

Q: What challenges have you had to overcome to get to where you are now?

A: There will always be those who do not believe in you and do not believe you can get anywhere ... . Even though sometimes I get discouraged that I am not doing my job correctly or that I am not good enough, [it helps] knowing that by continuing, I can prove them wrong.

Q: What is the most intimidating aspect of being on the school board?

A: I have to say, being next to so many well educated and important people can get very intimidating.

Q: How do the other school board members relate to you?

A: The other members are very polite and respect me. I'm sure they see me as a little kid, but they never show it. I respect what they do.

Q: How do you balance your schoolwork with your responsibilities with the school board?

A: Sometimes it is hard since meetings can run for several hours, and I still have to drive all the way back home and do homework, but I wouldn't change it. I have to plan ahead when I know that a meeting is coming up. So if I have a meeting later on in the week, I try to get my homework done earlier on.

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