SGA Special

Commentary from SGA Coordinator Javier Fernandez, and candidate features.

With Decatur High School ninth and tenth grade SGA candidate speeches approaching on the 18th of April, many candidates, both new and returning, may still have questions about the best way to go about campaigning. Moreover, students who are voting may be torn between choosing one candidate or the other. To help aid in the process, SGA coordinator and DHS teacher Javier Fernandez speaks about his experience organizing elections, and what newly elected Representatives should expect in the 2019-2020 school year. Finally, candidates wishing to make a lasting impression provide more information about what compelled them to run for SGA, and what makes them stand out from the pack.


(SGA Coordinator)

“SGA is there to funnel students’ voices,” said Javier Fernandez when remarking on why he believes strongly in the importance of the association. He feels that without SGA posing its role as “an institutional body that teachers and administrators view as a legitimate expression of the student body,” students would have no clear way to voice their concerns. In turn, communication between the school board and the student body would become chaotic.

For this reason, Fernandez encourages students to get out and participate in running for SGA or voting for candidates.

“Take it seriously,” said Fernandez repeatedly. This is the most important piece of the process for both candidates and voters.

Since SGA elections have been held as group events during advisement, Fernandez has noticed an increased responsiveness, something that he described as “a sense of decorum.” He sees the increased attentiveness and respectfulness that students give candidates during their speeches, and wishes for this continue.

Besides taking campaigns seriously, Fernandez stressed another important piece of the election process: voting. That may seem obvious, but in the years before Fernandez began working with SGA, voter turnout was surprisingly low.

“Students had the choice of filling out [ballots] or not. The problem that I noticed was that the turnout, the percentage of kids who actually voted, was just unacceptably low. As low as 30 or 35 percent.”

This voter turnout was the result of electronic voting ballots, which have been recently replaced by paper forms. Ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade speeches are followed by a voting session, in which paper ballots with pictures of each candidate are handed out to all students to. Although Fernandez now has to look at each piece of paper, keeping tally of which candidate has accumulated the most votes, he feels that in the long run, the work pays off. Now, turnout for ninth and 10th graders has grown to above 90%, and for eleventh graders, it has increased to about 70%.

“This was lower than I wanted it to be,” said Fernandez while recounting the past year’s eleventh grade turnout. “But Juniors are hard to get to … they’re doing dual enrollment and stuff like that.”

Still, Fernandez is working with Amanda Lockhart to bring these percentages up by sending out ballots to social studies teachers and trying to identify those who have not yet voted.

While Fernandez had been leading SGA organization efforts for the past two years, Lockhart has played an essential role long before he started.  Now, she focuses on coordinating homecoming and the winter dance, while Fernandez takes the lead on the rest.

Fernandez acknowledges that although homecoming is one of, if not the the biggest job of the year for SGA representatives to manage, they also have many other responsibilities. Newly elected representatives should expect to meet before classes in August of 2019 to talk about goals for the upcoming school year.

… it’s up to students to come up with things to work on throughout the year. We’ll develop goals, and then start talking about how to achieve these goals,” said Fernandez. For Fernandez and the student body, there is a trust that SGA will take the initiative and represent DHS students in the most effective possible way.


(Ninth grade candidate)

One of Max’s main motivations in running for student government is his desire for stronger special education recognition. He believes that in-class differentiation services are crucial to a successful gifted education experience.

In-class differentiation services refer to the use of teaching strategies that accommodate each students’ individual needs in class. Techniques like specialized in-class grouping and specially designed teaching styles based on students’ learning styles are examples of ways that differentiated instruction can be applied in classes.

“Right now, students, at least in my experience, are not receiving differentiation services,” said Bee-Lindgren.

And in order to provide better services for students throughout the school, he emphasizes the importance of accountability measures. To combat this issue, Bee-Lindgren has developed the idea of a SGA-run webpage in which “teachers and gifted coordinators would be required to update with what [accommodations are] provided on a unit-to-unit basis.”


(Ninth grade candidate)

Levi has done some pretty out-of-the-ordinary things that give him a more lively edge. One example of this has been his experience on stage at the Fox Theatre in Midtown. There, he was able to perform alongside Mike Geier, who played as Puddles the Clown in Season 12 of America’s Got Talent.


(Tenth grade candidate)

“Do not expect people to respect you if you do not even respect yourself, so respect yourself or be scum,” said Solomon Kibret. He likes to think of these words as a motto.

Kibret also prides himself on his individuality and ability to have fun, while simultaneously succeeding academically. Through joking and entertaining himself throughout the day, he’s succeeded in making school, something that he would otherwise find trite, interesting.

Still, “when it is necessary, I work hard and deliver results,” said Kibret. For him, being able to excel in school and maintain a fun personality is rewarding.

Moreover, Kibret enjoys participating in debate club, cross country in the fall, and track in the spring. He also enjoys writing stories with strong sarcastic and comedic elements.

One of Solomon’s most recent stories is excerpted below:

Quote sign icon , Quotation mark Illustration

It was December of 1974 in Africa when I saw my parents murdered right in front of me. I was 4 years old at the time and we were walking from the movie theater, having some good ol’ family bonding, when suddenly this mysterious dark very dark figure came and robbed us. He said my Dad was 5 cents too short so he shot him six times in the chest. My Dad dropped like a wet towel on New Year’s Eve…


(Tenth grade candidate)

Isho Sheikh was raised in Decatur. She is also a Kenyan Muslim. And these two facts combined created numerous difficulties for Sheik as she paved her way through life. At school, she was required to speak English, but at home, her parents didn’t want her to. So, while Sheikh stayed connected to her heritage, for a time, she found it hard to understand some parts of the English language.

“Growing up, I was — and I’m still — very shy, which helped me listen to what others have to say, but made it difficult for me to speak up when necessary,” said Sheik.

When Sheik did attempt to grow and break out of her shell, she’d often go about this in a way that evoked reprimand from teachers and administrators.

But, in her continuous search for a place and a voice, Sheikh decided to join organizations such as DHS’s Black Student Union, My World, International Club, and Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights. Volunteering also gives her another outlet to help better her community and world.

As an African immigrant running for SGA, one of Sheikh’s main goals, among many, is to ensure that all people, including people like her, are represented.

I want to make sure everyone feels like they are accepted and appreciated at DHS, so I want events and activities that highlight different cultures and religions to be shown.” 


For more information about SGA candidates: Click here.

Note: Although all SGA candidates were reached out to, only those who chose to provide information could be featured.