Every December, the Montgomery County Board of Education treats student leaders with an evening event to learn about their needs, answer questions regarding school procedures, and inform young advocates of new social resources and opportunities. All eight voting members of the Board, along with Superintendent Dr. Starr, engaged in constructive discussion with middle and high school students. Event participants enjoyed handfuls of savory snacks while voicing their perspectives on pressing issues, ranging from energy conservation efforts to curriculum 2.0.
Traditionally, the Student Member orchestrates this community event, taking questions from the audience and gesturing for other Board Members to respond. To maximize interaction among student leaders and the Board, and to ensure that diverse interests are voiced, current Student member Mr. John Mannes renovated the event format. This year, students in attendance were grouped into four clusters, each accommodated in a circular formation so to create miniature round-table discussions. Board Members, in teams of two or three, rotated around every table. This forum-like, personalized approach not only allowed more bilateral input, but also produced a vibrant dynamic.
Richie Yarrow, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, current MCR Vice President, greatly appreciates the new format, “at first, I worried that the new meeting format would create overcrowding in the Carver auditorium. However, I think the new format worked very nicely, and did a lot more to connect students with their Board members.”
Many students inquired about the nature of Curriculum 2.0 and various means of implementation during the meeting. “Current curriculums have not had focused goals and targets for the development of writers, 2.0 is really an interdisciplinary approach to cultivating solid learners,” responded Board Member Mr. Christopher Barclay with regards to the inquiry, “our students should really be thinking ‘how we learn what we learn.’”
“American children need to get deeper into subjects we learn and not just touch the surface” added newly elected member Mrs. Smondrowski, “we hope to link subjects together, such as teaching communication in science and logical reasoning in literary analysis.”
A presentation for new math curriculums will take place on January 8th.
Questions regarding the possibility of late school times also came from numerous participants. “A school start time petition will be presented the following Tuesday”, said Board Member Brandman, “the Board did look at the issue and reviewed previous reports, which have been uploaded onto the website, board members are committed to look at the reports again.”
However, Brandman notes that other major issues, such as transportation and room for extracurricular activities may rise due to a ‘revamped’ schedule. Currently the Board has initiated an advisory committee to have a closer examination of the case.
Later on, advocates of increased school safety measures, environmental initiatives, and technology improvements presented their cases to the Board. Board members appeared enthusiastic at every student’s input. Some even acknowledged that students may soon walk into a school with open wireless network, butterfly gardens to protect the environment, and sets of delicious, nutritious lunch menus.
Responses to the event were overwhelmingly positive. Nonetheless, a few students had suggestions to improve the event, “I liked the event very much, though I wish it was for a longer period of time so more concerns could be brought up,” says Christina McCann, a sophomore at Blair.
“This is my first time coming to the event, and I was a little unsure of what to expect at first, but it went really well! However some people spoke a lot more than others, and that didn’t make it fair to students who never got the chance to talk,” says Aman Kaur, a junior at Seneca Valley High School.
“This event was very well organized, but I had also hoped for a MCR or MCJC introduction to the meeting. Hopefully the Board will restore this feature in future forums,” concludes Richie Yarrow.
Minutes from the event can be accessed on the BOE web once published. Students interested in attending future Board of Education events should check the student affairs office website at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/studentaffairs/sao/opportunities/
article by Jessica Li, SAC press secretary, junior at Richard Montgomery High School