- Expertise: Elevating Student Voice
- Position: Superintendent
- District: Cherry Hill Public Schools, Cherry Hill, N.J.
When Superintendent Joseph Meloche weighs a major decision for his school district, he often turns to some of his most trusted advisers: students.
Helming the Cherry Hill, N.J., public schools since 2015, Meloche has made student opinion and feedback a central part of his strategy to get the best performance out of his already high-flying suburban district.
He convenes regular town hall meetings at schools across the district and actively seeks the opinions and experiences of students who aren’t the most likely to speak out. He even taps into a reserve of district alumni to gain insights into how their schooling experience could have better prepared them for life after high school.
What are the results of Meloche’s ongoing dialogue with members of the 11,000 student body in Cherry Hill? Students have surfaced problems that school leaders hadn’t spotted on their own and brought forth fresh ideas for how to solve them, he says.
“I believe that we need to make sure their voice, their opinions, their thoughts are shared and that we actually listen to them,” Meloche says. “We forget that kids, this is their one time coming through high school. This is the one experience that they have and we need to ask them what they think.”
Lessons from the Leader
- Listen, Then Act: Ask students what is going well, what needs to be improved, and what they need to be successful. Then, act on what they tell you.
- Words Matter: Use your words to build, to create, to empower, to guide, and children will follow suit.
- Build Relationships: Go out and meet families in their homes, attend community events, spend time in the library speaking with families and neighbors, cultivate relationships with alums.