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There are nine members of the Clayton Public Schools Board of Education, but only one of them is 19 years old and a college freshman. This new member of the board is Clayton resident Bailey Burnett.

One day last year, Burnett’s family discussed the two newly open positions on the board, joking that Burnett would be a great candidate. She went along with the joke, unaware that this one conversation would change her life.

As family and friends continued to discuss this hypothetical idea, it became less hypothetical as Burnett began to see herself as a member of the board. She didn’t run a campaign for election, but enough family members and friends wrote her name on the ballot that she soon received a call announcing her election.

“I was very optimistic for the opportunity,” she says. “I saw it as a good thing and not a bad thing at all, but definitely a lot of responsibility.”

Today, Burnett serves on the curriculum committee, which is responsible for reviewing various matters like available courses, programs and the renewal of educational contracts. Burnett says the committee meetings are different each time, because the committee is always tackling a new topic. These topics are then further discussed at the monthly public meetings. Tuesday meetings are held monthly and open to the public. She says that although she’s attended these meetings as a student before her election, presiding as a board member is much different.

“I went in really not having any expectations,” she says. “It’s definitely different being on the other side. There’s a lot more homework involved. I have to go through agendas and Friday’s notes and have discussions with people who are much older than I am about serious things, and most kids my age don’t even think about the things I’m discussing.”

This age difference Burnett mentions is definitely unusual. She says it’s strange to conduct business with people who are much older than she is, but it’s expanding her ultimately taught her a lot, and allowed her to grow.

“I personally find it to be very motivating, especially for goals in the future,” she says. “They teach me a lot without even trying to. The grown-up world is very different from what I imagined when I was in high school and not really worrying about a single thing. It definitely makes you mature more quickly.”

The other members of the board are also adjusting to having such a young teammate. Burnett says everyone has been supportive of her joining the board and have expressed their eagerness to see what she could bring to the table. Burnett was also curious to see how her age would affect her contribution to the board.

“I believe I present a different perspective than everybody else,” she says. “I just came out of the school – I know exactly what’s going on there, for the most part.”

Having never before held an elected position, Burnett says this role has changed the way she views elected officials.

“I better understand the reasoning and thought process behind some of the decisions made,” she says.

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