As SMOB election season unfolds, new ideas arise

As a voting member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, the SMOB has the ability to push for the changes backed by students. The issues highlighted in their campaign are often the focus of their advocacy.

Photo courtesy of MCPS News.

As a voting member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, the SMOB has the ability to push for the changes backed by students. The issues highlighted in their campaign are often the focus of their advocacy.

By Ha-Yeon Jeon, Opinions Editor

Give me an S! Give me an M! Give me an O! Give me a B! What does that spell? SMOB! As the SMOB Nominating Convention on Feb. 16 quickly approaches, student campaigns are beginning to pick up steam to see who the final two candidates will be. Although it will be each school’s delegates who cast the votes, it is important that all MCPS students know who the candidates are and their respective visions for MCPS. 

Voting on issues ranging from school closings to the allocation of the operating budget, the SMOB will have to prioritize what they, as an extension of the over 160,000 students in MCPS, fight for. With key issues such as covering curriculum diversity, bridging the equity gap, increasing student support, and improving facilities, all candidates have many ambitious plans for their potential term.

Throughout her term, SMOB Hana O’Looney has continuously championed several key issues since her campaign. As a result of her efforts, the Board of Education has taken action on the one semester financial literacy requirement and a pilot program bringing free menstrual products into schools is in effect. However, O’Looney looks toward the future to see the other potential issues the next SMOB will need to oversee.

“We’ll still be in a COVID recovery year [next year], so that will definitely be something the next SMOB will have to focus on,” O’Looney said. “There is [also] so much learning loss to make up, and we need to continue looking at equity issues across the district.”

An important question has been how MCPS curriculums can be improved to better reflect every student. From using a variety of learning resources and perspectives to providing diverse course options such as LGBTQ+ Studies and the APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) Studies course, candidates are eager to propose changes that will modernize curriculums and make them more accessible for all students. 

“I want to work to revamp curriculums for ESOL and neurodivergent students to give them more opportunities,” Maahe Kunvar, a SMOB Candidate from Northwest High School, said. “I also want to work to change history and English curriculums K-12 to have more relevant information from both the past and present.”

Providing mental health support and resources to all students has also become one of the most prominent topics, but with differing solutions among candidates. Hiring more psychologists, for example, seems to be a consensus, while other proposals vary, such as the Wellness Wednesdays and the expansion of free tutoring presented by Arvin Kim, a SMOB Candidate from Walt Whitman High School.

“It feels like as we’ve come back in-person, we have lost some of the systems of support from the virtual year,” Kim said. “I feel that this is ignorant in the sense that the mental health issues that many students struggled with did not go away with the return to schools. The resources schools provide should reflect the levels of support students need.”

Another important issue being raised is in regards to diversifying administrations. According to the 2019 report for MCPS, 72.76% of all MCPS teachers were white. Although there have been sharp increases in diverse teacher hiring since then, candidates such as Kunvar believe that more needs to be done.

“Having counselors, teachers, psychologists, and administrators of color will help students to feel more comfortable and safe within their learning environments,” Kunvar said. “Students should be able to actually see people they can relate to.”

One of the most highlighted disparities in MCPS is the differences in the variety of course options between schools. This affects the type of education students receive, as some schools have hundreds of different listings across both core subjects and electives, while others only offer a fraction of those.

“The solution to this is similar to a Dual Enrollment Program, where instead of going to all seven classes in school a day, you would have the opportunity to take courses offered online through the Virtual Academy for a couple of your periods,” Kim said. “Even if your school doesn’t offer the course that you want, you would still be able to take it.”

Because the SMOB is a powerful position with the ability to better press for change within the MCPS community, this election is being taken very seriously. From building greener schools to hosting more community events, these candidates each have their ideas for improving the county, and students should be able to identify with the platform they decide to support.

“I hope that the [next SMOB] will focus on equity and that they have every student’s, regardless of their backgrounds, best interest at heart.” O’Looney said. “I’m excited to see where this election goes.”