2024 SMOB Election: Meet the Candidates (Blake Beat Edition)

On April 17, 2024, MCPS students will vote for the new Student Member of the Board of Education, better known as the SMOB. The two finalists are Sam Ross, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School, and Praneel Survarna, a junior at Clarksburg High School. Both students have abundant experience in student leadership and are very promising candidates.

Sam Ross is the Chief of Staff for the current SMOB, Sami Saeed. Ross was also the Policy Director under the prior SMOB, Arvin Kim. She is the Community Relations Director for the Montgomery County Regional SGA as well as an intern in the MCPS Central Office. Through these positions, she learned how MCPS operates and how to elevate student voice issues. Ross also has experience serving as co-chair of an MCPS committee and has been part of five MCPS committees that tackle issues involving mental health, assessments, and school safety. Lastly, Ross lobbied five times and testified 13 times in front of the Board of Education.

Sam Ross’ policies mainly revolve around safety and wellness, education and achievement, student life, and communication. Her safety and wellness policy consists of having honest and transparent communication for school safety plans. Ross hopes to increase funding for social workers and support staff and hopes to invest in safety technology. Ross plans to support student achievement by changing the MCPS Homework Policy through student input, as well as rethinking teaching practices while offering high-quality career and college counseling. She strives to keep AP and IB tests, industry certification, and dual enrollment free. Lastly, Ross intends to improve student life by increasing funding for school lunches, increasing funds for athletic, art, and extracurricular activities, creating guidelines to further engage students, and emphasizing the importance of student life.

Praneel Suvarna is the Vice President of the Montgomery County Regional SGA (MCR-SGA). He is also the president of the Clarksburg Class of 2025 SGA. Survarna has been a member of the Student Advisory for Mental Health, MoCo for Change, YCC (Youth Creating Change), MCCPTA Green Schools Subcommittee, and MASC Certified Workshop Presenter. He’s also testified in front of the Board of Education about issues relating to MCPS students, spoken to members of the Maryland General Assembly, and worked as an intern at the Office of the Superintendent for the Summer Rise Program. 

Praneel Suvarna’s policies cover school safety, school lunch, mental health, and the opportunity gap. Suvarna wishes to ensure school safety by increasing the number of Restorative Justice Specialists in schools, increasing MCPS communication of potential threats to student safety, working with student input, ensuring inclusivity for non-binary and transgender students, and increasing support resources for students. He hopes to make school lunches inclusive and to communicate with students through social media and tasting events. Suvarna wishes to increase mental health resources in elementary schools, work with students to make mental health education more relatable, and ensure that there are Wellness Centers in all MCPS schools while making these resources known to students. For the opportunity gap, Suvarna has a two-step implementation plan where middle schools would offer a wider range of language courses and high schools would implement more AP Capstone, IB, and CTE programs. 

Sam Ross and Praneel Survarna have used social media as their main method of communicating with students, since on those networks, students can constantly see what they’re up to. They both value advocacy for the students of MCPS and have received student feedback through Instagram surveys and Google Forms where they have updated their platforms accordingly. 

Overall, both candidates are highly qualified individuals who have expressed their willingness to work with students and the MCPS Board of Education to ensure the best possible experience for students.