Students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elected Ardrey Kell High School junior Ailen De Bonis to serve as the 2024 Student Advisor to the county Board of Education. Voting for the position opened for all CMS students on October 23 and concluded on Election Day, November 7. According to CMS, 2,109 students voted in the election.

De Bonis, a native of Argentina, attended Elon Park Elementary and Community House Middle before Ardrey Kell. She says: “As a student who moved from Argentina and came to Charlotte knowing minimal English and no other students, CMS has helped me become who I am today.”

In her application to the position, De Bonis emphasized her support for social-emotional learning (SEL) and Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE). She said she would work to put more emphasis on those programs as student advisor.

De Bonis’ campaign also touched on other issues, including: attendance reform, so that excused absences will not be considered equivalent to unexcused ones; ending the use of the Launchpad login system; more allowance for tardies before consequences begin; changes to the See Something, Say Something anonymous reporting system; daily homeroom; and better mental health resources.

In a district where nearly 30% of the student body is Hispanic or Latino, De Bonis becomes the first Latina and the second Hispanic person elected to the student advisor position since its establishment in 2016. She will assume office at the same time as Liz Monterrey, who was elected to the Board of Education At-Large on November 7 and will become the first Latina to serve as a voting member of the Board.

De Bonis received votes from twenty-nine of thirty-four high schools, forming a broad coalition of supporters to be elected. She defeated nine other candidates from across the county.

North Mecklenburg student Camille Satterwhite-Rambert was a finalist for the position. She ran a campaign that prioritized equity, inclusion, the well-being of students, and the improvement of school facilities. She fills the shoes of Breana Fowler, the 2021 Student Advisor who hailed from North Mecklenburg. Satterwhite-Rambert, a sophomore, will be eligible to run for the position again next year if she chooses to do so.

In a district with more than 45,000 high school students, voter turnout in the election was below 5% of eligible students. Far fewer students voted in the election than attend De Bonis’ home school. This disengagement by students in electing their only representative in district affairs is concerning at best. Despite numerous social media posts by the district and the candidates for the position, De Bonis was elected with the indicated support of only a small minority of all CMS high school students. 

In the future, it seems imperative that schools and the district do more to increase voter turnout to make certain that the Student Advisor represents the broader interests of students in the district. Making the Advisor a voting member of the board instead of just a spectator to official board activities could help increase the legitimacy of the position and participation in the election. However, it is unclear what actions would be required to give the Student Advisor this power, and is possibly outside legal boundaries.

De Bonis brings an ambitious agenda to the table in a district where reform and improvement is ubiquitously necessary. Her representation ought to be important to CMS students, faculty, staff, and parents. 🆅

Photo credits: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools