At the annual Board of Education meeting with student leaders on December 4, where Board of Education members and MCPS officials cycled between tables packed with students, 80 students from across Montgomery County voiced their concerns about issues affecting youths to Superintendent Joshua Starr and the eight Board of Education members.
Through staff members of MCR-SGA to middle school students interested in sharing their opinions, BOE Members acquired insights into the needs of the vast student body.
Throughout the meeting, many students perceived slight disconnect between the BOE’s construction and the reality of issues discussed such as the state of rundown schools, mental health issues, the impending budget freeze, and the high-failure rate in Algebra classes.
Discussing the rundown schools, students reported that their local middle schools had holes in ceilings and mold in restrooms. According to some student speakers, the problem arises from inadequate maintenance budget.
In response, BOE members expressed that there are procedures for these cases to be reported. However, many students noted that those reporting systems are not working.
“We have to lobby in Annapolis for a higher maintenance budget. There isn’t enough money to go around, we have to prioritize.” Superintendent Starr said in response to the run-down schools.
Significant population and enrollment increases across MCPS, as reflected by the many portable classrooms used by schools is another main point of discussion.
The controversial bill that would change bell times also surfaced during the forum. Students generally responded that the bell change would negatively affect students’ activities and would not make a dent in their sleep schedules. Some students rejected the idea because of the umpteen expenditures that MCPS must make to change the schedules of all schools.
An issue that delegates expressed their feeling of confusion, even frustration, is the problem of mental health and bullying prevention programs in MCPS. Many students shared that current policies are not working, others suggested potential strategies for remediation.
The solutions discussed made students notice that most of the bullying issues connected to mental health has a great deal to do with their individual school culture, and the change that must be made at the student level. Some students discussed that this could be done through starting student counseling groups so that this universal issue can be solved effectively through a grassroots effort.
After the meeting, Blair Sophomore Sabrina Cauton said, “I think it went really well, I got a lot of insight from the questions that were asked I think the board members got a better idea of what it’s like to be and MCPS student.”
With all the issues out in the open and the board members overwhelmed by the end of the meeting, it was apparent that student advocacy should start from the ground up in student’s own schools, not jumping to the top of the school system and expecting change.
Superintendent Starr said, “The most important issue for student involvement is at the school level. For me, it’s fascinating and wonderful hearing the kids but school is where they are all the time, but I want to make sure school improvement plans incorporate student voice and that administrators are listening and talking to kids.”
Article by the MoCo Student staffer writer Xavier Rivera of Rockville High School