It's an Exciting Year for Willis
20k4wjhs is in its first exciting year in partnership with the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA). Dr. Matt Strom initiated the participatory budgeting (PB) process after witnessing its power in the Phoenix Union High School District. April 17, 2019, Willis students will decide how $20,000 should be spent on projects suggested by the entire WJHS community (parents, staff, and students). This is NOT a simulation. The money is real!
What is Participatory Budgeting?
In our case, PB is a process that seeks teaches students how to be actively involved in their community. It is a partnership between our district, the Center for the Future of Arizona, and the Maricopa County Recorder’s office. PB can be a vehicle to show how our democracy works by taking ideas for needed changes, developing them into argue-worthy issues with evidence, campaigning for the issues, and conducting a formal student vote. PB’s aim is to show that individuals in a community do have a voice in a participative democracy. Bethany Celmins and Alex Kimble are the PB sponsors.
Why Willis Junior High School?
Dr. Strom selected the older campuses in our district, Andersen JHS, Chandler HS, and Willis JHS, to pilot the activity. At this time, it is anticipated to last for a minimum of three years on campuses where it is successfully implemented.
What Has Happened So Far?
Second quarter the Willis PB steering committee, Team Ca$h Money, collected ideas using traditional suggestion boxes, social media, and an online survey tool. The ideas were sorted into categories.
At a January 2019 training, Team Ca$h Money members were trained how to evaluate the different catetories and determine which idea clusters would be developed into proposals. The ideas proposed were researched, drafted, and sent into the Chandler School District Think Tank for feedback with the help of liaison Sarah Sacco. The students and sponsors modified the proposed ideas based on District feedback. Ideas ranged from a filtered hydration station (denied), a new mascot (accepted), a mural (accepted with modifications), an improved gymnasium sound system (over budget), outside seating (approval pending) and a shade structure (approval pending). Other ideas that did not make the cut included specific bathroom improvements and Chik-fil-A added to the cafeteria menu.
Fourth quarter has arrived and Vote Day is near (April 17, 2019). Team Ca$h Money is hard at work explaining and promoting voting items. Mr. Delp is putting the final touches on organizing the big day. Students will be using real ballots and putting their vote in an optical scanner provided by the Maricicopa County Recorders Office. Volunteers from the Recorder's Office, Madison Rock of CFA and Willis's steering committee will help make PB history when Firebirds cast the first votes IN THE NATION! We are the first junior high (sorry Anderson, you're second) to complete the PB process. The tally will be immediately available after the student casts the last vote. Mr. Delp will announce the winner before students are excused. The proposal "package" that receives the most votes WILL BE FUNDED. Real votes. Real money. Real changes.
By PB’s conclusion this year, students will have hands-on experience taking a community need from concern to potential solution. Students in 2018-2019 will leave a legacy for the future.