Opinion: “Listen to Student Voices”

Nathan Tesler, HHS Class of 2023

April 21, 2023 By Nathan Tesler

In discussions about our schools, students’ voices are often lost, even though students will be the most impacted. To help address this, two years ago, the school committee founded the Hingham Student Advisory Committee, an elected student group that meets with the school committee and provides them with student perspectives on the issues facing our district. In the past year, I have served as chair of the student advisory committee and the student representative to the school committee. Sitting through so many school committee meetings has helped give me a perspective to the issues facing the districts. I know firsthand how important it is that Hingham passes this override.

In two months, I will graduate. In fact, in a few days, I will be going to the admitted students’ weekend at Harvard where I’ll be attending this fall. At this point of the year, like many seniors, I’m tempted to start moving on to what’s next. We won’t be affected by the proposed cuts to the school budget. However, as the only voting-eligible group of Hingham students, we feel a sense of responsibility to come out to support this override. We need to secure the same high-quality education that we received for the classes coming behind us, particularly since they are unable to represent themselves.

Hingham always prides itself on its high test scores and winning varsity records. However, the measure of a school goes far beyond these metrics. The mission of Hingham High School is “to graduate students with the academic, civic, social, and personal skills necessary to become productive, responsible members of a democratic and ever-changing global society.” To achieve this, the school strives to offer a “well-balanced educational program complemented by co-curricular activities.”

Should the override fail, this balanced education will be lost. In particular, the proposed cuts will be deeply felt in the arts, athletics, and student support services. These cuts will severely impact the social-emotional wellbeing of our student body and materially change the educational experience of all Hingham students. To be clear, over time, our test scores and athletics would also falter.

A failed override, with its staff cuts, course cuts, and additional fees, would be a death sentence for our district’s already struggling arts programs. The fine arts department would lose the leadership of recently hired fine arts director, Joann Bellis. The Hingham arts community campaigned for years for this position, and we are already seeing the benefits of strong and unified leadership within the arts department. During COVID, music enrollment significantly declined and it has not yet fully recovered. If the override fails, the district will introduce a $425 fee to join the beginner band or orchestra in fifth grade. Students already pay an expensive instrument rental fee. This level of fees presents a barrier of entry. Participation in instrumental music would be a significant financial decision for many families, and further declines in enrollment would likely result. Additionally, the proposed cuts to after-school activities at the middle school would result in the cancellation of the much-beloved school play, along with several other well-attended activities. Other arts cuts would include teachers at the elementary and middle schools and the elimination of some music electives at the high school.

A failed override would also deal a harsh blow to Hingham athletics. Sub-varsity athletics would be largely stripped away with the elimination of the majority of our freshman and JV teams. Athletic fees will be raised across the board. Hingham prides itself on its athletic program, not just for our winning culture, but our inclusive one. With the proposed cuts, the high participation rates we love to cite would be from a bygone era, and without participation in developmental teams, our athletic department as a whole will suffer.

The student services department, responsible for our special education services, would also be heavily impacted by a failed override. With the planned departure of Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Suzanne Vinnes at the end of year along with cuts of two student services administrators in the central office, the department’s leadership will be both new and diminished. Additionally, a variety of student support staff will be cut at all school levels. When funding is taken away, educational support services are limited and largely focused on legal compliance. Substantive student-focused service delivery suffers. Therefore, students needing academic support will be disproportionately impacted by these budget cuts, and will fall further behind the rest of their peers.

I personally greatly benefitted from the arts, athletics, and support services of the Hingham Public Schools. I’ve been a member of the band since fifth grade and rowed with the crew team in high school. In both, I found communities where I developed lifelong friendships and interests. I’ve also benefited from the support services in the Hingham Schools. Although I was always a “gifted student,” I arrived at the integrated preschool with extreme deficits in my executive functioning, writing, and more. The special education support I received helped me thrive, not just get by. Honestly, without the supports I received, I would probably struggle to write an op-ed like this. Should the override fail, and these support services be cut, I don’t know if another student like me could make it from the integrated preschool to Harvard.

As I said earlier, students often have no voice in discussions that affect them the most. As registered voters, we have a responsibility to protect their interests. I personally feel a deep responsibility to ensure that younger Hingham students have at least as many opportunities as I did. I strongly encourage you to support the override. We are the stewards of the younger generation, and with our vote we give them voice.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: “Listen to Student Voices””

  1. Nathan is a genuine star in so many ways, most importantly in the ways for which there are no trophies, no awards, and no mentions in the media. Those are the enduring qualities of character that speak more to who the person is than anything that can be displayed or showcased. And these are the qualities that make a community a caring, decent, compassionate, and strong place to be. Thank you, Nathan, and thank you, too, to your classmates and colleagues!


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