That local election you may have missed
Campaign’s over. Votes counted. Winners declared. But don’t worry, you didn’t miss the big midterms. It’s Parrott Academy’s annual SGA election that just wrapped up, and everybody walked away a winner.
The tight race had two candidates for each of five SGA offices. After last year’s historic election produced the school’s first female SGA president, this year saw another landmark as high school students chose the school’s second minority student leader, senior Sam Okonkwo of Goldsboro.
But Okonkwo comes to office with an all-female executive council: vice president Blythe Brantley, secretary Karmen Heath, treasurer Arden Riddle, and parliamentarian Alli Grant Avery. As in the nation at large, women candidates are meeting with more and more success at the polls.
But in almost every other way, the Academy’s 2018 SGA election starkly contrasts with the “real politics” of the state and nation. “Though the campaigns were competitive, all the candidates are good friends and were very supportive of each other. Opposing campaign workers and candidates even helped each other put up posters,“ noted SGA faculty adviser Brad Sauls.
And if you’re sick of lengthy state and national campaigns, APA’s approach offers a refreshing change. “We’ve limited the kids to a 3-day electioneering period. They weren’t allowed to put up posters or pass out campaign buttons until the day after Labor Day,” Sauls pointed out. “This helps everybody stay more focused.”
The rules of campaigning, set by headmaster Bert Bright, don’t allow for windy speeches or divisive debates. Instead, it’s a strictly “press-the-flesh” approach as candidates meet and greet in the hallways between class periods or hand out souvenirs with candidate slogans during lunch. Inside the classroom, the real work of wrestling with quadratic equations or analyzing the protagonist of Oedipus Rex continues.
The SGA officers’ first job involves planning the school’s annual “Spirit Week” that leads up to Homecoming. They’ll also design a winter pep rally. But their mission goes beyond fun. Past presidents have been invited to Board of Trustees meetings and worked with APA’s School Improvement Team on analyzing reaccreditation data.
These student officers have an open line of communication with the headmaster. And whenever there’s a student assembly, it’s the SGA president who leads the school in the Pledge of Allegiance. “They’re true student leaders, and a voice for the student body,” Dr. Bright noted. Some professional politicians could take a lesson from that.