“When I saw the position was available at my school it was something I was really interested in,” Gelberg said. “Education is really important in my family and it’s something I had always wanted to get in to… This is a great way for me to get myself into the education community and to improve our community.”
Earlier this month, Gelberg was one of 12 students from across California selected by a screening committee as a semi-finalist for the position, which provides the student with full-voting rights on the board and a $100 stipend for each day of service on official business.
In his application, Gelberg had to answer questions about what he believes is the most difficult problem affecting kindergarten through 12th grade public education and steps he believes the state should take to solve the problem.
“One of the major changes that I wanted to see come into effect is really an increased focus on skills that students will need after high school because right now our schools are geared toward getting students into college,” Gelberg said. “That’s really good and useful for the future, but unfortunately that leaves many people not knowing what to do after high school… Some basic life skills are neglected and that needs to be addressed.”
As a former student of Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences—whose charter was denied by the William S. Hart Union High School District and the Los Angeles County Board of Education this year—Gelberg also hopes to stress the value of charter schools in the public education sphere.
“I used to attend a charter school so I do think they have an important place in our education and I think there should be more of a focus on them , they offer great opportunities for students who want an alternative approach to education,” he said. “As a member of the Board of Education, I want to start a program that allows for the expansion of charter schools and more transparency within them.”
Gelberg also asked for input from his AOC classmates, who focused on their concerns regarding homework, curriculum and mathematics.
“Last week I told the school and asked them what they wanted to address,” he said. “I wanted to feel where the other students are coming from.”
Gelberg will have a chance to share these ideas in detail with fellow California public school students during the annual Student Advisory Board on Education (SABE) in Sacramento from Nov. 5 to Nov. 8.
During the SABE conference, student representatives from across the state meet to discuss problems in the state’s education system, create solutions to these problems and present their proposals to the State Board of Education.
It is also a time when the 12 semi-finalists are narrowed down to six after they give presentations to all of the SABE participants who vote for the six finalists in a secret ballot.
“I’m actually really glad that that’s the case,” Gelberg said. “If a student is to be representing students throughout the state, they should really be coming from the perspective of the students.”
Following the SABE voting process, a selection committee will then select the top three finalists before the governor appoints the chosen high school senior in the early summer.
If selected as the student representative on the State Board of Education, Gelberg would serve a one-year term from Aug. 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019.
As a student representative, he would be required to attend regular State Board meetings, a one-day orientation, selected advisory group meetings, student meetings, workshops and conferences, in addition to studying the meeting agenda in advance and handling other board information.
“I think it would be a really exciting opportunity for me because I’d be able to come from the perspective of someone who can see the different types of schools and different types of learning,” Gelberg said. “From public school to charter school to community college, I understand the perspective of all those types of students. I feel like I’d be able to offer that.”
Even if he is not selected to serve on the State Board of Education, Gelberg hopes to become a teacher or serve as a member of the Hart Governing Board or the Los Angeles School District Board of Education.
“Even if I do not get the position on the Board of Education, I hope I leave with a greater understanding of how decisions are made in our schools and have a deeper understanding of where other students are coming from and what their concerns are,” Gelberg said.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_