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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2005

East Toledo: Birmingham Elementary students elect a 'mayor'

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

One mayoral candidate wants students to be able to whisper between classes while the other candidate sees a need to double the penalty for running in the halls.

To coincide with the Toledo mayoral race, students at Birmingham Elementary School in East Toledo are learning about local government this year by either participating or voting in a school-wide mayoral race.

Older students were encouraged to run for mayor, and a primary election narrowed down the field of 10 mayoral candidates to two: sixth-grader Chad Payton and fifth-grader Arron VanDenEynde. The two squared off last week in a mayoral debate in the auditorium in front of the entire school.

Chad told his peers that he'd be a good mayor because he's been in school government before, he knows many students, and is honest and trustworthy.

"I will not goof around," he said. "I will set a good example by following the rules."

His major platform focused on safety. He wanted to hire more peacekeepers - Birmingham's police force - to help solve the problem of students running in the hall because he was concerned that students would fall down the stairs and hurt themselves or others.

Arron's major platform was to change the "no talking" rule between classes to allow students to whisper with each other and to start an agency where students who are having problems with one another could go to solve them.

He said he'd make a good leader because he's a good student. "I think even when the school day is over, I will set an example for the smaller kids," he said. "I think I'm the best person for the job."

The majority of the students agreed with Arron, because they elected him to the position late last week.

"Either one would have been an excellent mayor," Principal Barbara Guthrie said. "We all consider them both winners, and it was too bad that we could only pick one."

She said Arron's first mayoral duties are to make an acceptance speech and to write a letter to Toledo Mayor Jack Ford to ask him about his election experiences and for some pointers on running the school.

For the rest of the school year, Arron will be meeting with school council four times a week during MicroSociety to deal with any issues his peers might have, said coordinator Angie Dalton. "They take it very seriously," she said.

MicroSociety is Birmingham's effort to make school exciting while promoting learning. Children devise business plans in their classrooms and take turns playing producers, consumers, and retailers. Other students, like Arron and school council, make and enforce the laws.

A primary election cut the field of school council candidates from 40 to 10. Five are serving as at-large council members who handle all grade levels, while the other five are district council members who are assigned to one grade level.

Though students run for office every year, Ms. Dalton said school officials decided to focus on local government - instead of the federal or state government - for the first time this year because understanding how it works is also a part of the state standards.

Sixth-grader Sierra Merritt, 11, who was elected to be an at-large council member, said she ran for office because she thinks she'll be a good school leader.

"It's helpful," she said, "because it helps us learn how you're supposed to do it in the future."



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