On Tuesday, October 25, Montgomery Blair High School hosted MCR-SGA’s first General Assembly of the 2016-2017 school year. The assembly took place following weeks of anticipation and some minor setbacks with hopes that high school students would be more informed of what MCR-SGA has been doing under its new leadership.
President Prim Phoolsombat has been meeting with policymakers and Associate Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Brice to see if they would be interested in speaking at future general assemblies. Students should submit ideas for possible speakers if they have any. Phoolsombat is working on collaborative efforts between MCR-SGA and the MoCo Student, an independent, county-wide news network. She is also working with the Minority Scholars Program (MSP), which will likely collaborate with MCR as well in the coming year. Vice President Matthew Post has also been meeting with Dr. Brice, the MSP, and MCR-SGA departments to stay updated on what work is being done. He recently participated in a Montgomery County Junior Council (MCJC) general assembly.
Treasurer Ananya Tadikonda announced that the Grant Program is postponed until further notice. The Grant Program provides MCR-SGA member schools with the opportunity to receive funds for a particular club after completing an application. $3,000 has been given to clubs so far. Tadikonda is in the process of planning fundraisers for the rest of the year as well, including a Chipotle fundraiser and selling stress balls to advocate for Mental Health.
This year, MCR-SGA is set on improving outreach with the public through use of their improved website and working with the MoCo Student. Additionally, departments will be meeting monthly, and the Community Outreach department will be scheduling visits with school SGAs. The Public Relations department shared plans to inform more students about MCR through the creation of new videos, management of social media, and the introduction of an online legislative testimony help tool: students can quickly figure out their elected representatives, contact legislators, and learn more about the policies they are most interested in.
The Special Elections Committee (SEC) has announced plans for campaign finance reform. They plan to make it easier for students of any socioeconomic status to run effectively for Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) by lowering the cap on the amount of money that may be used during any campaign. They also hope to release a SMOB information sheet which details the SMOB position and what it entails, its significance, and other information regarding the election.
Assembly attendees were organized into breakout groups which discussed several legislative priorities. Among these were House Bill 921 which would require teachers and counselors to be trained in mental health counseling by the Maryland State Board of Education. This bill was not passed in committee due to concerns over its expenses; however, students voiced support, emphasizing that its outcomes would outweigh its costs. Students also discussed issues such as increasing class sizes and the noticeable deterioration of their schools. Springbrook students mentioned rats, broken air conditioning, and the presence of cockroaches. At Northwood, some students were struggling to use computers and other resources due to overcrowding.
Students also participated in another breakout group activity on educational policy. Many agreed that special education and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs should be advocated for, so that ESOL departments may receive more funding and outreach. Students talked about project based learning, programs that would promote more interactive and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching students.
Amendments were passed to give the Legislative department and Educational Policy department more flexibility in what issues they address. Other amendments concerning language in the Constitution were also passed. Multiple resolutions were voted on; Resolution 1, denouncing a policy at Quince Orchard High School that requires teachers to confiscate cell phones from students going to the bathroom, was passed. Resolution 2, which would support limiting the terms of County Council members and executives, was struck down. Resolution 3, concerning whether only member schools should participate in the grant program, was tabled. Resolution 4, which proposed opposing the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) policy that blocks social media on school wifi, was passed.
MCR-SGA will have its next General Assembly on Wednesday, November 16 at Colonel Zadok A. Magruder High School. Interested students are encouraged to follow MCR-SGA on social media and to visit our website, mcrsga.com, for constant updates and minutes from past events.
Article by guest contributers Randi Herath and the MCR PR Department