The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Observer Opinion: SMOBs do what exactly?

Photo by Isar Uslu
WCHS junior Jeremy Kwon checks his phone during SMOB voting. Voter apathy has caused many students to stop caring about the SMOB or not vote at all.

Every year, students across MCPS ask the same question: what exactly does the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) even do? Nobody has an answer. Not even the SMOB seems to know what they do. Depending on which one you ask, they either improved school lunches (without providing details) or turned a four-page community engagement document into a 16-page one (whatever that means). In reality, the SMOB does not provide a democratic voice for students or their interests. It is an institution that only benefits the office holder and their circle of cronies through prestige and fame. It is so counterproductive that the office should be removed altogether.

MCPS students are expected to appreciate that they get to vote on a singular member of the eight-person Board of Education. After all, Maryland is the only state that gives its SMOB actual voting rights at school board meetings. In most places, they serve simply as observers. However, despite the unique powers of the position, the office is not representative of MCPS students. Four of the last five SMOBs served on the previous officeholder’s advisory council. Sam Ross, one of the candidates from this year’s election, also serves on the council. The SMOB also comes from only a handful of schools. In the last decade, Richard Montgomery High School has dominated this category, while WCHS has not produced a SMOB in over 30 years.

All of this suggests that the position is only reserved for a small, tightly-knit group. This trend has lasted so long that no current MCPS student began attending school before it took shape. How can the SMOB be a democratic, representative office if it does not represent the average student in any way, shape or form?

Additionally, when it is all said and done, the SMOB’s only tangible achievement is benefiting themselves. Every SMOB in the last decade has gone to an Ivy League university or an elite institution of a similar caliber. Many SMOBs have since ended up as CEOs or investment bankers or working at Silicon Valley start-ups. Without a doubt, the position of SMOB played a significant role in landing them in a top university and potentially even a cushy job. Meanwhile, MCPS schools have seen math scores, enrollment and rating declines across the county for years now—the improvement of which has been a major goal of the school board. SMOBs could have contributed to solving these problems, but instead, school meals, Wi-Fi speeds and building cleanliness are still complained about, with nothing being done despite refreshed promises from every year’s SMOB. In truth, prestige is the only thing the SMOB is after, so none of that matters to them.

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Speaking of accomplishments, SMOBs have not done anything meaningful. Students get bombarded yearly by slogans that sound like big accomplishments but are pieces of paperwork at best. At worst, they are initiatives that the SMOB had no involvement in passing. From creating signs to publicize new school lunch items, many of which are to be seen at WCHS, to “altering the purpose of homework from rigorous to meaningful,” watching the SMOB try to pull out any measure of success from their tenure is laughable. Current SMOB Sami Saeed did one of the most egregious examples of slogan spewing, promising MCPS “the most progressive, innovative and equitable county in the United States” where “every student can take classes they are interested in.” None of this, of course, can be measured in any way, making success exceedingly challenging to attain.

The easy solution is to get rid of the office entirely. It taunts MCPS students by consistently producing a small group of out-of-touch, prestige-seeking individuals who reap all of the benefits of the position without doing anything to benefit their constituents.

Those who defend the institution of SMOB argue that the very existence of a democratically elected body that has actual voting power is a good thing, albeit in principle. But that very democratic principle is insulted by the existence of the SMOB. Not only are student voices being ignored, but the person meant to be that voice also ignores it while pretending they care during election season. Would it be better to pretend that student voices are being heard, or would it be better to get rid of this nonsensical show finally and have the maturity to acknowledge that a self-serving institution will never voice our concerns?

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About the Contributor
Isar Uslu
Isar Uslu, Assistant News Editor
Isar Uslu is a junior and the Assistant News Editor of the Observer. In his free time, he likes to play board games, cook and watch YouTube videos.

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