Orange Brook Elementary School is about to get a new marquee near the front of the school.

Principal Devon O’Neal wanted to remove or significantly cut back two trees so the new marquee could be installed. But students at Orange Brook believed it was wrong to remove or cut back the trees and protested the decision.

O’Neal saw a teaching opportunity. “I am a principal of the people and I wanted to let the students decide,” he said.

So O’Neal decided to put the questions of whether or not the trees should be removed to make way for the marquee or should the marquee be placed somewhere else on the campus. He invited Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes, members of the Hollywood Commission, school district officials and Broward Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Runcie. With community leaders in attendance, students were given the opportunity to pose questions about how they achieved success in life and how the electoral process really works. Other questions were, “How is the President of the United States elected?” and “What happens when there is a tie in an election?”

IMG_3227 Orange Brook Elementary goes out on a limb, holds election deciding fate of campus trees
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Jehnaya Racine and Kenneth Pace, fifth graders at Orangebrook Elementary School led an effort to get a referendum to save two trees at their school.

The Supervisor of Elections Office donated the use of the voting booths and equipment in support of the school’s efforts to make this a positive learning opportunity for the students. To make the experience as realistic as possible, students are also received mock voter-ID cards.

Runcie said, “This is a good way to show students how the political process works.”

The students then went through a sign-up process similar to registration and voted using real ballots. Some of the students chanted, “Save our trees! No marquee!” Once all of the ballots were completed and turned in and tallied, the decision was 276 in favor of keeping the trees in place and 67 in favor of moving them to make way for the marquee.

Fifth-grader Jehnaya Racine said, “I think this election was really spectacular and we got to be part of it.”

Kenneth Pace, a fifth-grader, said, “This was a good experience and we learned about elections.”

“The kids need as much information as they can get so they can make better decisions,” Snipes said. “This was a good educational opportunity for them.”

Commissioner Debra Case was pleased to see the students participate in an election. “This kids have great ideas. They’re smart,” she said.

Vice Mayor Traci Callari said, “I think this is wonderful. This exposes students to how government works.”

The students enjoyed the opportunity to participate in an election and meet with local leaders.