SMOB Can’t Solve Everything
The Northeast consortium of Montgomery County consists of Blake, Paint Branch, and Springbrook High Schools. It’s a minority-majority and low-income area of the county and has historically been underrepresented in county politics and opportunities. The NEC has infrastructural issues, poor funding, and little-to-no outreach regarding student advocacy and educational opportunities within MoCo.
In my years in NEC middle and high schools, I’ve seen SMOB candidates come and go, all claiming the same thing: to “close the opportunity gap and improve relations between all areas of the county”. And yet, I’ve seen little to no improvement.
The opportunity gap isn’t something that one person, specifically one student, can change. This is an issue that can really only be resolved by people high up in the county, but know who those people are? You guessed it: rich, white, upcounty residents.
I was excited that one of our SMOB candidates this year was from a DCC school. A few friends and I from the Beat reached out to both candidates hoping to endorse the one that we felt would best support Blake. We didn’t get responses from either until nearly a month after our initial email.
At first I was disappointed and angry that the SMOB candidates weren’t prioritizing the NEC. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we shouldn’t have to rely on literal kids to fix these kinds of serious, pressing issues.
Why are students the only people talking about closing the opportunity gap? Where are the adults in charge?
The SMOB is the only board member that MCPS students take part in electing. Candidates spend almost the entirety of their campaign emphasizing that they are the voice for the students. But, the SMOB only represents one vote on a board of eight members. It’s literally impossible for one person to represent the over 150,000 students in the county.
Aside from being a relatively small voice, they are also handling a lot more than SMOB itself. At that point, they become working students, handling extracurriculars, school, and family responsibilities. On top of that, students see the need to only come to their SMOB for their issues with the school system. SMOBs are expected to put out a monthly newsletter and be constantly available on social media and via email. Where is this attention from the more senior members on the Board?
I’ve never seen an adult member advocate directly to our faces as students. Worse, I couldn’t even tell you one of their names. And these are the people deciding how MCPS’ yearly budget is delegated and when it’s time for masks to become optional.
It’s hard for one SMOB to convey to the rest of the Board how hard students are advocating for change when the other members don’t see it themselves. For them, it’s probably easiest to put the seemingly nagging voices of students to the side and instead listen to the parents and stakeholders. But they aren’t the ones going to school.
The onus should not be on the students to reach out. Adult Board members should be more proactive in interacting with students. We should know them, and they should know us. It shouldn’t be on the SMOB to bridge that gap. The adults in charge should act like it.