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High school senior wins Boise School District Board position

Shiva Rajbhandari joins the Boise School Board as a student, beating incumbent Steve Schmidt, creating a unique dynamic.

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise School District Board of Trustees election is in the books, 13 candidates ran in four races for five trustee positions. A first of its kind outcome in Boise, 18 year-old Boise High School student Shiva Rajbhandari beat incumbent Steve Schmidt in race four, to earn a spot o the Board of Trustees. Rajbhandari says the election win is a result of weeks of hard work.

“We knocked on 2,000 doors this weekend and out of like 5,000 total doors. So we were putting in the work for sure. But, you know, you never know how an election is going to go, especially some of these local elections,” Rajbhandari said.

Rajbhandari acknowledges the obvious point, he is in a very unique position as a District Trustee and a student.

“I think it's super important. This campaign is about student representation and we needed students on our school board, 14% of large districts across the country have students on the school board. So this is just Boise schools getting up to the times. And I'm excited to set a precedent for student representation and a student vote on board decisions and for hopefully generations to come,” Rajbhandari said.

Sitting on a board with people who have much different lived experiences will be a unique dynamic. People like Beth Oppenheimer, who has served on the Boise School Board since 2016. She won another 6-year term in this latest election. She says the election results are telling.

“Community came out very strongly that they like the direction that the district is going, and we're hopeful that we can just stay that course,” Oppenheimer said. “This election has really opened up our eyes to where we can make improvements, what's going well, what's not going well. We're going to just continue to make those improvements where we can and stay the course.”

Oppenheimer said she is excited to work with Rajbhandari, someone that will bring a new perspective to the board.

“Shiva is one voice on a seven-person board. I'm one voice on a seven-person board. And it's really about working as a team, and I look forward to it. We have worked together as a team, the board, historically, for the most part. We don't always agree, but it's really about working,” Oppenheimer said.   

Unique story aside, Rajbhandari said his run and term on the board is not for show, he is there to make a difference.

“Student representation is something that all students deserve. We all should be at all places where decisions are being made, but especially where decisions are being made in education,” Rajbhandari said. “I'm super lucky that the majority of the voters agree, and a majority of voters do believe that student voice is valuable and are willing to give us a seat at the table.”

Oppenheimer said the work for Rajbhandari and the rest of the board begins again on Monday, when the trustees are officially sworn in.

“I'm interested to hear what his perspectives are and see how we can all come together and work together and continue to make advancements in the district,” Oppenheimer said.

Still, the fact a current student is set to join the school board officially on Monday, it’s a very unique situation.

“This morning my mom pulled me aside. She's like, 'I need 15 minutes of your time ended up being like a two and a half minutes,'"Rajbhandari joked. “She said 'you'd better be attending your classes.' It really is such an honor to be a leader and district wide and as well as in my school. And it's certainly an example that I want to set for students, teachers, staff and everyone. And I think it's a super vital role that I have to play. And I hope I can balance that well.”

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