Every year, students across the county take part in the democratic process of electing our Student Member of the Board (SMOB). Our SMOB is a highly-qualified elected leader who holds a position- and a vote- on the Montgomery County Board of Education. This year, on the 40th anniversary of the SMOB elections, thirteen unique candidates headed into the nominating convention on February 21, 2017 and only two emerged. As we head into the campaign season for the final election, it is important to keep in mind what makes a good SMOB- an experienced leader who not only shares your priorities, but also has the plans to approach them.
In only a few months, all students in Montgomery County will watch the two SMOB candidates address their plans in a Q&A video to be shown in social studies classes. During the video, students are also handed an informational paper detailing relevant experience that each candidate has and the issues that are most important to them. While many students choose not to read their copy, this sheet is crucial in allowing students to educate themselves on the candidates.
“A problem we face with a lot of campaigns is that they have a lot of different initiatives but they don’t have the plans or the backing to support those initiatives,” said prospective SMOB candidate Ananya Tadikonda, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School. “[This] often poses problems because the general public isn’t inquisitive or thoughtful about that.”
In her campaign this year (prior to the nominating convention), and for her probable campaign for the 2017-2018 school year, Tadikonda attempted to broadcast her platform so that her ideas were easy for students to access. During lunch periods, she traveled to different high schools to meet with SGAs across the county, in addition to transforming her social media and networking platforms. “I think a good SMOB requires lots of experience but they also have to have tangible plans,” Tadikonda continued, demonstrating that it is not only important for student voters to know candidates’ priorities, but also their outlines for achieving their goals.
Another key aspect of a candidate’s platform to consider is their plans to address issues that only pertain to a select minority. “One of my major initiatives is equating the playing field. If we eliminated two PARCC exams we could’ve funded for every student to take one SAT. I wanted to free up that funding to allow FARM students to get complete fee waivers on AP and IB exams,” Tadikonda said. “We live in a really diverse community and we cannot ignore the needs of students.”
Our SMOB represents the Montgomery County student body, and should therefore have the experience and qualifications to make decisions on our behalf. Usually, SMOB candidates have backgrounds in MCR or SGA that prepare them for tackling a large-scale leadership role. The annual discussion video is a vital step in helping students better understand the candidates, as it is usually the only exposure that students receive from their candidates before they vote. This resource, and others found in each school’s SGA or online, can help voters get a sense for how capable and qualified the candidates are.
“[SMOB] is the election of a public official and it should be treated as such,” Tadikonda concluded. While many students may not take their vote seriously, the SMOB makes decisions that impact the entire student body, with policies that affect our education and learning environment. Therefore, itis in the best interests of the students to take the initiative to educate themselves on the candidates and evaluate each platform in order to make an informed decision when voting. A good SMOB is a student who has mapped a clear path to progress; however, in order to elect a capable SMOB, the student body has to empower themselves by voting responsibly.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Isabella Levine of Richard Montgomery High School