Outgoing MCR-SGA President Richard Yarrow brought a stronger student voice to the Board of Education. Yarrow also saw the introduction of students to the MCPS Operating Budget workgroup, and the start of a public service announcement contest for mental health, important firsts for the countywide student government during his term.
These initiatives were part of Yarrow’s goals for the county’s high school student government, which represents more than 45,000 students. The former president, who left office at the end of the school-year, sought to better engage decision-makers, channel greater resources to school-level student government associations, and push for expanded voting rights for the Student Member of the Board.
Previously, Yarrow had served with multiple student and parent organizations, including the countywide PTA and the MoCo Student itself. Once in office, Yarrow soon turned his attention to Board of Education work groups that consult certain community stakeholders about the school system’s budgetary priorities. However, despite the numerous parent and employee interest groups consulted, students had long been absent from the table.
“It’s unfair to exclude those who have the greatest stake in budgetary decisions. It also makes for worse policies, as students often know best what technology or program creates the biggest impact for them in the classroom,” Yarrow said.
In addition to preparing testimonies, Yarrow led his executive board to draft public comments to school system officials evaluating plans on school construction and health education. Over the year, MCR also tackled issues ranging from the county’s Kids Ride Free program to regulations changing the size of new high schools.
Nonetheless, Yarrow described engaging decision-makers as the most challenging aspect of his term.
“Too often, student organizations seem to fall by the wayside,” Yarrow observed. “Though MCPS tends to engage other parts of the community, there’s rarely any engagement with student groups on the budgets or crucial policy changes.” Although MCR participated in the recent superintendent search and worked with the search firm, HYA and Associates, the high school student organization criticized the lack of any middle school representation in the search process.
In addition, this past April, a bill to expand Montgomery County SMOB voting rights came to the state Senate floor minutes before adjournment. A Frederick County legislator quickly threw a filibuster of the bill, which would have only applied to Montgomery County, effectively killing a bill that Yarrow and his colleagues diligently worked for.
Yarrow was also careful to engage schools’ student governments, which MCR represents. MCPS’s Long-Range Planning Director, Bruce Crispell, and former Superintendent, Dr. Joshua Starr, addressed student concerns at MCR forums, along with SMOB Dahlia Huh, adult Board of Education members, and state SMOB Steven Priester. MCR also sponsored a summit and training session for SGA leaders.
“We aimed to channel more resources and support so that every local SGA can accomplish its goals,” Yarrow explained.
At the conclusion of his service, Yarrow encourages all interested students to become involved with MCR. “Even for less-active SGAs, student government provides the best opportunities in the county for making real changes in the education of our classmates and younger peers.”