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Veteran Problem Solver Ryan McDermott Joins School Board as Student Representative

| August 17, 2010

evie shellenberger and ryan mcdermott flagler county schools

Evie Shellenberger introduces Ryan McDermot to his newest post on the Flagler County School Board. (FlaglerLive)

In a way, it’s a step down for Ryan McDermott. In June, at the University of Wisconsin, he was part of the teams from Flagler Palm Coast High School that collected more awards at the international Future Problem Solvers competition than any school in the competition’s 36-year history.  His particular team won the “Beyonder Award,” presented some years but not others, and only to those problem solvers who distinguish themselves somewhere between the exceptional and beyond. McDermott and his team won for a project on “The Faces of Autism.”

Now McDermott is the new student representative on the Flagler County School Board.

It’s not nearly as exciting, and meetings of the board can be lengthy, plodding, and taxing even of angels’ patience, but McDermott is as if made for it: his confidence was apparent the moment he took to the dais, where School Board Chairwoman Evie Shellenberger briefed him on his the meetings’ routines and welcomed his input. Moments later, McDermott was posing his first questions (about whether International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement grades fit into overall FCAT calculations for school-wide grades), reclining in his swivel chair like an old habitué of the board, and casting his first vote.

Student members’ votes don’t count. Their voice does, however, and they have as much authority—or at least leeway—to pose questions as board members or the superintendent do.

McDermott, a 17-year-old senior in Flagler Palm Coast High School’s International Baccalaureate program, is not shy. Example: “There’s a lot of things that the people on the board don’t know that I know, being a student.”

And: “They don’t experience the policies that they make and I do. So, who has the better opinion?”

Luckily for Trevor Tucker, the board member who sits to McDermott’s left on the dais, McDermott isn’t running against Tucker (who faces Marc Ray in this month’s election).

McDermott knew about the position through its previous holder, Vincent Scerbo, also a problem solver who happened to be on McDermott’s team in Wisconsin. Scerbo graduated last spring and is attending the honors program at Florida Atlantic University.

“During the school year actually I meant to go to Mr. Oliva and ask him if I could have this position because I was really interested in it,” McDermott said, referring to Jacob Oliva, the principal at FPC. “I totally forgot to ask him about it. But he ended up calling me, first or second week of summer, and that day I said yes to it.”

The son Kathy and Robert McDermott, Ryan is a native of Flagler Beach and the product of Flagler schools: Old Kings and Wadsworth Elementaries (gifted, of course), Buddy Taylor Middle School, and FPC.

McDermott is aware that he’s not his own representative, but the representative for 13,000 students. He intends to speak regularly with Alexander Ludwig, the student body president at Flagler Palm Coast High School—online of course, through Facebook—and to his principal to help him spread the message that he is all students’ representatives. (McDermott will also be addressing students and the district directly through FlaglerLive.)

“I’ve been interested in politics for a long time,” he said. “I know it’s going to be an interesting and fun experience.”

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12 Responses for “Veteran Problem Solver Ryan McDermott Joins School Board as Student Representative”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    I served on the school board so long that I remember how and who got the board to take certain policy positions. The idea of having a student on the school board came from an idea that Eddie Herrera had picked up from a school board convention that year Each year they have gotten better and better.

  2. Kathy McDermott says:

    Thank you for giving these High School Students this wonderful opportunity to experience our School Board system. Our son Ryan is anxious and excited to continue using his Problem Solving skills and to learn and gain knowledge by being part of this Board.
    Ryan, we are so proud!

  3. Diane Tomko says:

    Ryan will be a positive asset to the board. He is a problem solver that knows how to address challenges and seek solutions. He is well read, confident, a natural leader with empathy…does it get any better than Ryan Mc Dermott?

  4. Anonymous says:

    No Diane I am not sure that it does get any better than this. it was a pleasure to sit with Ryan this evening = listening to his in- put as a “new student member” Ryan had some great in put to our conversations and will be one of the best assets to our board. I look forward to hearing his side to our situations. Thanks for making him be as open and honest as he is.

  5. Monica Campana says:

    You are an advocate for those without voice and who count most. You make us all proud and our system better. Thanks!

  6. Itchey says:

    Maybe the school board would be wise to consider not only a student, but a faculty member, and a citisen at large to be on the board, making up a small group of diversity that could be consulted during their actions?

  7. PCer says:

    What a great kid. He is an inspiration for other kids to try their hardest and pursue what they love. One question, will there be representative from Matanzas as well?

  8. I am very impressed to see a student member sitting with the board – especially a trained problem solver! I wish that all agencies/boards would learn the problem solving method to address the critical/essential issues they must face.

  9. Jim Guines says:

    You make an excellent point. My church finally appointed a young member to its vestry and lots of ideas have come forth from him. I would strongly suggest that the county commission and the various city councils look into this possible arrangement. It has paid great devidends for the board of education.

  10. Ralph Lightfoot says:

    I was at the presentation of awards for the Future Problem Solvers’ recent outstanding achievements.
    I was impressed with Ryan’s presentation skills. This young man is ready for corporate American now!
    I congratulate his parents; they have done a GREAT job. We should find out what they’re doing and bottle it.

  11. Monica Campana says:

    Itchey – Every Flagler school has a School Advisory Council comprised of parents, community, faculty and in some schools, students. Their district wide concerns are shared with the district by the principal.

  12. jean scerbo says:

    This is a wonderful opportunity for the students. My son Vincent was the liason btwn the school and school board last year and it was a great experience for him.
    Congrats to Ryan for filling in his seat with him off to college!!

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