For as long as can be remembered, the high school’s four class officers have been predominantly male: one female member typically surrounded by three men. Why is this the case? Perhaps because books, movies, and the media perpetuate the outdated stereotypes that associate presidents with males, and secretaries with females. Or, perhaps students’ votes model after the election trends in the White House, where women are scarcely represented. Whatever the case, class officers, teachers, and students alike at the high school are ready to change this long-standing pattern.
“My sophomore year, it hit me the hardest how much more credit the male class officers were getting, especially after seeing all of the females in the room doing so much work, without credit…When you see three boys and one girl sitting on a stage, that says something,” said class secretary Audrey Turco ’22.
Faculty at the high school encourage the importance of voting for the candidates who are best for the job, and try to sway students away from voting for ulterior reasons including popularity or social pressure.
“What we use now is a system called approval voting, where you can vote for all of the candidates that you deem fit for the job. This way, if your two buddies are running for office, and you feel obligated to vote for them, but you also see another candidate who seems right for the job, you can vote for all three of them. The idea is that you are not restricted by having to vote for people you connect with on a personal level, and can vote for everyone who you think will do the job well,” said math teacher Mr. William Horne.
Ideally, the high school wants the voting system in place to underscore the importance of gender balance, ensuring that the four class officers represent as many voices as possible.
“If you’ve got four males or four females, one could say you are not representing your class as well as you might, considering the importance of balance. Since being asked what I would do to make sure that there was a gender balance amongst the class officers in my interview for this job, I have thought a lot about what needs to be done to create that level of balance, because it is so important,” said Assistant Principal Mr. Collin Shattuck.
Last year, class office titles were removed for the Class of ’24 and the Class of ’23. Three females and one male were elected class office positions as an unpredicted outcome. This year, the removal of titles carried on to the Class of ’25. Two males and five
females ran for the tenth grade class, and for both the ninth and tenth grade classes, three females and one male were elected.
“Aside from the Treasurer, I don’t know if people have a great understanding of what the positions are supposed to do. So to get rid of all the gray, we thought, let’s just have four class officers; let’s see if we can create more levels of cooperation and collaboration by doing that. And I think that has happened,” said Shattuck.
Although the advisors did receive some verbal concerns from the community on this change, they truly believe it has accomplished its goal of clearing the blurred lines between roles and ensuring that every officer is equal.
“When we started this last year, I got a few voices saying this is not a good idea, so I explained that the purpose behind this is so much more than what students can write on their college transcripts. This decision was in the best interest of our leadership teams and our officers,” said Shattuck.
The tenth grade class officers appreciate this change and have seen a more equal power dynamic throughout their time representing the class.
“I love that there are three female class officers this year, and I think it shows that students are respected regardless of things out of their reach, such as gender. I hope that everyone will feel comfortable reaching out to at least one of us, especially considering that we are a pretty diverse group and have different relationships with different people in our grade,” said class officer Stella Tomoyko ’25.
The advisors believe that preserving the democratic process of election at the high school is crucial. In an event that all office spots are filled by one gender, advisors say they would not step in.
“Elections purely need to be the voice of the students. Therefore, before the election, it is so important to emphasize balance and get a wide representation by having diversity within the group,” said Shattuck. “Part of the work that the group would need to do is be strong in their outreach to their classmates and be deliberate in collecting voices from a wide group of people within their class.”
Similarly, the advisors want to make it known that reserving spots for different gender identities is not a direction they ever plan on going in, because they want to encourage voices from people who identify beyond the gender binary.
“We could never reserve spots for specific genders, because of the variety by which people identify themselves. Ultimately, we want more than just males or females. To elect and advise people who identify in varying ways is the end goal,” said history teacher Ms. Emily Gordon.
Work towards ensuring leadership class and work outside of class should not end at changes in titles. In 2020, Gordon ran informal meetings that happened organically with the female class officers to talk about power dynamics, sexism, and possible action towards making the females in office feel represented, valued, and respected. These meetings have not continued, but Gordon suggests that female leaders attend the club Girlz To Leaders, run by Turco and Catherine Smith ’22.
“The club Girlz To Leaders is oriented around what it means to be a female leader in a male-dominated world. I would suggest that any female who is seeking leadership support should definitely get involved with that community of supportive leaders,” said Gordon.
The high school’s faculty, class officers, student body, and community as a whole are in support of the changes that class officers have undergone this year. The advisors are proud of the effect that changing titles has created, and the class officers themselves are modeling after this rise in gender representation by prioritizing student voices while leading.
“The sophomore class officers and I will do our best to make a positive impact by voicing our opinions and making sure that everybody feels heard and welcome at the high school,” said class officer Emma Sutherland ’25.
In the future, if the identities of the class officers fail to represent the student body, the advisors have ample ideas of what the community can do to increase diversity within the election pool.
“We have a number of clubs in our building that promote females in positions of empowerment, and I would really love adults at the high school to see that and say, ‘You’ve got something special, and you would make a strong class officer.’ That way, from the bottom up, more women would feel capable and supported to run for class office, thus helping the high school near the gender balance we are looking for,” said Shattuck.