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.
- FPC & Matanzas Students Collect the Most Awards in World Competition’s 36 Years
- Taylor’s Journal, Day 1: Their Own World Cup
- Taylor’s Journal: Day Two
- Watch Taylor Explain Her Project on a Palm Coast TV Video (23 minutes in)
- The Competition’s Hour-By-Hour Schedule
- FPC’s Problem Solvers Make History
- Benefit Dinner for FPC’s Future Problem Solvers
- FPC Commencement Stirs Tassels and Circumstance
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.”