Mount Vernon District board member Daniel Storck and Student Representative Harris LaTeef at a school board meeting.
Harris LaTeef isn’t used to wearing a suit, but he’s getting good use from the ones he owns this year.
The School Board’s student representative, a senior at Langley High School, will provide the board with a unique perspective that represents 187,000 people in the county for important issues this year.
“I really do believe this is the greatest honor I've received during my time as a student and I could not be more proud to represent my peers from across the county, especially so during a time when the Board is deciding issues that will have an effect on students for many years to come,” said LaTeef.
LaTeef’s first experience with the School Board was as a third grade student at Colvin Run Elementary in 2006, when he nominated Nancy Gunderman as one of the support employees of the year.
School Board Member at Large IIryong Moon was the board chairman when LaTeef came before the board for the first time.
“He is a well-mannered, well-spoken, smart, admirable, and compassionate young man with a great future ahead of him,” he said.
That first interaction peaked LaTeef’s interest in Fairfax County Public Schools politics - and politics in general. He said he is interested in how politics and government affect students.
AS STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE elections loomed early in the year, he decided to throw his hat in the ring despite being active already at school. On Feb. 5, he ran against 18 other students in the county and was elected the 44th student representative.
As the students’ representative, he will be the key voice for big issues this year, like later start times. This is an issue that LaTeef sees every day.
“This is the single largest issue that will affect students this year,” he said. “I used to get on the bus at 6:17 a.m., and I probably wouldn’t get home until 3 p.m.”
Students who have between two to five homework items to finish that night struggle to get to bed by a decent hour, he said. Going to class tired from the lack of sleep was normal among his peers.
He also hopes to use his position to advocate for smaller class sizes for next year’s budget.
“With the growing student enrollment and the lack of a real increase from the Board of Supervisors, I hope to advocate that, if any cuts need to be made, we strive to limit the impact they will have on classroom sizes and the daily lives of students,” he said. “Of course an increase from the Board of Supervisors is critical to maintaining our level of excellence as we are projected to be providing education to over 195,000 students by 2018.”
Fellow classmate at Langley, Morgann Tucker, became good friends with LaTeef during high school. She noted that he is active with the student newspaper.
“I think he’s doing a really good job pushing later start times,” she said. “He’s really fun and always doing something. He’s really busy.”
IN ADDITION to writing and taking photos for the school newspaper, LaTeef is the Co-Chairperson for the Langley and McLean high schools Relay For Life.
“We’re bridging the gap between Langley and McLean, who are bitter sports rivals,” he said, laughing.
He also volunteers at Reston Hospital Center once a week.
“From watching budget debates to speaking individually with School Board members, I really have a newfound appreciation for the massive amount of work and effort that goes into running the 10th largest school system in our nation,” LaTeef said.