Selectmen Seek to Increase Civic Engagement Among High Schoolers
With a lack of a required civics course at King Philip High School, the Wrentham Board of Selectmen recently discussed ways to encourage civic engagement.
With a small crowd at last month’s town meeting, the Board of Selectmen are beginning to wonder if it’s time for civics to make a comeback. Currently King Philip does offer an AP Government class but there is no required course on how government works.
The desire to see civics taught again is something that is been repeated by the selectmen and others around town.
“One of the things I’ve heard people bemoan is they aren’t teaching civics which is having an effect. You get 27 people at town meeting and have a hard time getting volunteers,” Selectmen Michael Carroll said.
Chairman Joe Botaish echoed Carroll’s statement, believing that the lack of attendance at events like town meetings is a lost opportunity for people to help made decisions about the town.
“From my standpoint when I sit on the stage and see 25 people sitting in the audience at town meeting, it’s not effective,” Botaish said.
Last night, the board discussed talking with the King Philip School District about the potential of working with the together to bring back civic like courses and activities to help spark an interest in town affairs.
While nothing is set in stone and the ideas are still in the early discussion phases, Carroll proposed that the selectmen work with KP High School to give lectures or possibly allow students to shadow members the board.
“The people who are going to be deciding our future are going to school today,” Carroll said. “We want to make sure that people are interested in running for selectmen and once they do they know how to do it.”
Selectmen Charles Kennedy, who also acts as the board’s liaison to the KP School Committee, supported the idea of trying to engage more students on the high school level,
“I think we need to catch them at the end when they’re registering to vote. I think we need to figure out what those ideas are and have them brought in,” Kennedy said.
Botaish proposed seeing if the AP Government class would be interested in doing a mock town election and meeting as part of a project that could be presented to the school.
Kennedy added that KP Superintendent Liz Zielinski has discussed a potential meeting with the selectmen next month, giving the board a venue to discuss their ideas.
While nothing will be official for some time, there is a feeling on the board that they should do something to promote who runs the town and how local government works. An example given by Botaish of the need to educate is when he talks to the boy scouts for their project on community participation and the scouts are not sure what he does.
“They’ll interview me and I say ‘so what am I’ and they’ll say ‘you’re the guy on TV we see every once in a while,’” Botaish said. “They don’t know exactly what you do and what’s involved.”