by Nicole Reitz
Sixth graders at Volney Elementary School learned about their local government last Thursday by “running” the Volney Town board meeting themselves.
Senator Patty Ritchie and State Assemblyman Will Barclay were special guests at the meeting. They spoke about the roles and responsibilities of their jobs.
Ritchie explained that for the first half of the year she is in Albany working to pass the budget, make laws and work on a number of bills.
“A lot of bills that I’ve put in over the last two years have come from people like yourself and sometimes they actually come from an idea of someone your age,” said Ritchie.
For the second part of the year, Ritchie is back in the district representing her constituents.
“A lot of what we do is so different everyday, from trying to fight for more school funding to participating in fun things like parades,” said Ritchie.
Barclay spoke about his role as an Assemblyman, where he represents about 130,000 people. His primary job is to create laws for New York State. He joked that the senator was in the process of placing a law for a longer school year.
“We live in a great community here in Oswego County, one of the reasons is that we have people here that are willing to put the time in to make the community what it is,” said Barclay.
The senator and assemblyman handed out certificates for participation before the meeting was called to order.
As always, the meeting opened with a salute to the flag, a practice that the sixth graders are used to. From there, students were paired with town board members and other town officials.
Sixth-grade student Jadelyn James was paired with Volney Town Clerk Barbara MacEwen. James got the hang of carrying motions towards the end of the meeting.
Volney student Ana had what classmates called the most difficult job of the night: town supervisor.
Student Andrew Hyde said that he learned the functions of the Volney planning and zoning boards.
“Whenever you want to build something you first have to go to an officer and he’ll tell you if its okay to build there,” said Hyde.
Caleb from Mr. Cahill’s class said that while he thought government was interesting, he would rather do something else.
“The meeting was kind of confusing because we were new at it,” he said. “I’m sure if you go to be a professional at something, you would probably know more than we just did.”
“I learned that government is very complicated,” said Juliet, who played the role of town councilor.
Students in Kimball’s classroom are reading “Rats of NIMH,” a story that has underlying themes about society, dependence and government. They often talk in the classroom about the function of community and what role they play in it.
“They don’t stop to think that there’s a zoning board or a dog warden,” said Kimball. “It’s not part of their world. This day is one they won’t soon forget.”