New Woman in Office: GDS students elect Shonali Palacios to be next SSC President

While many voters believe that election day takes place on the first Tuesday of November, Georgetown Day School (GDS) students know that election day for the Student Staff Council (SSC) president occurs on the first Monday of May. Beating junior Jeff Elias and sophomores Jonah Doctor-Loeb and Margaux Van-Allen, junior Shonali Palacios will succeed graduating senior Cecily Davis as the school’s student body president.

Starting this year, with an amendment to the SSC Charter, SSC opened presidential elections to the public instead of holding private elections. This change established a more democratic process to get the entire school involved. Elias, who is currently a grade representative, liked this new procedure, saying that it would “involve more students in the process of helping to govern the school.” Elias also contended that, “no matter what, a competent and qualified president would come out of the process.”

Before the election, Palacios wasn’t even sure that she was going to run for an SSC representative position at all, creating uncertainty as to who the presidential candidates would be. Palacios felt conflicted because in her past years on the council, SSC tended to be ineffective when trying to promote real change in the school. That said, although she’s had “a pretty tumultuous year in terms of [her] personal life,” she “came to the realization that [she] wanted to run for student council after talking to a few of [her] classmates and realizing that the school did have the capacity to [make] changes.”

After restoring her faith in the efficacy of SSC, Palacios decided to run for president. As a lifetime representative to SSC, Palacios a lot of experience on the council and wanted to fulfill a promise that she made to her peers that she would “try [her] very best to facilitate the transformation of their ideas into reality.” She felt that she “would have been lying in her original SSC speech if she didn’t run for president because it would be the only way to ensure that things are going to run smoothly.” After deciding to run, and winning the spot of an SSC representative, Palacios remained cool about the results of the presidential election.

According to the SSC Charter, the role of the president is to “run and plan SSC meetings, report and discuss decisions of the SSC with the GDS principal and other relevant faculty, and plan and run town meetings, with the help of the SSC.” Beyond her duties, Palacios’ main agenda is to improve the school’s communications in order to make the council, and the school, more transparent. As her first initiative, Palacios would like to start an email chain with GDS parents to distribute the SSC notes so she can let parents know how the school runs. She would also like to start meeting more regularly with principal Katie Gibson and head of school Russell Shaw to create a more direct line of communication between the SSC and administration. In her term, Palacios also hopes to ensure that the council can better represent the feelings of the student body, declaring that “There’s no reason that people should constantly have to be self-advocating. If there is a student government there that’s supposed to be serving them.”

Beyond fixing the reputation of the SSC within the school, Palacios wants to expand the role of SSC to act beyond the school too. In order to become a more central part of the Tenleytown community, Palacios wants to “increase the presence of SSC members at GDS board meetings and go to ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) meetings to see how the school is perceived and how the students in the school are perceived by the neighborhood.” As a whole, Palacios hopes for the administration to “take the council more seriously.”

With this updated electoral process and a new chief of staff, the school’s political scene has become more democratic. During her senior year, Palacios hopes to work with the other members of SSC to make the student government an even more effective institution.
By Zach Blank’19