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The Tattler

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The SMOB Candidates for the upcoming school year recently made a visit to B-CC. The event was open to all students and featured a student-led question-and-answer session.
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Nathaniel Seaman
SMOB candidates answer student’s questions at the B-CC Town Hall

The SMOB Candidates for the upcoming school year recently made a visit to B-CC. The event was open to all students and featured a student-led question-and-answer session. The SMOB candidates who attended were Praneel Suvarna, a junior at Clarksburg High School, Mitu Tegegne, a junior at Sherwood High School, and Sam Ross, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School. 

The meeting began with each candidate introducing themselves and presenting their ideas and the policies they would like to implement. Suvarna kicked off the meeting, when he said,”I’ve been able to work on a lot of different issues, and we were able to start a drug task force. Which is something I’m proud of.” The task force sponsored an event that trained over 200 kids on how to effectively utilize Narcan.

The second candidate to introduce themselves, Mitu Tegegne, was born in Ethiopia. When asked why she is running for SMOB she explained, “I am passionate about amplifying student voices, advocating for equitable policies, and contributing to the enhancement of our educational experience.”

The third and final candidate to attend was Sam Ross, who has dedicated a great deal of energy over the last two years to improving MCPS. Ross sat at the board table to testify 13 times on various issues such as English language learner support, mental health support, and school safety. The three main pillars of policy she is running on are safety and wellness, supporting student achievement, and bettering student life.

After introducing themselves, all three of the candidates were asked a series of prepared questions. When asked what their main priority would be as student member of the board, Suvarna emphasized that his number one priority is student safety. “It is not fair that students are dying within our schools. Especially after witnessing the drug crisis last year.” Last year, Praneel worked with an organization called Tree of Hope, which provided peer-to-peer counseling services for students who are addicted to drugs or are on the verge of addiction. “That is something I plan on working on as a student member of the board,” he stated.

Tegegne said her number one priority is mental health. “Mental health is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and MCPS needs to start acting like it,” she said. Tegegne would like to implement wellness centers in every middle and high school as well as school psychologists available for every student. “We shouldn’t be struggling to get an appointment with our counselor. That should be something that is built into our curriculum.” 

Ross’s main priority was to maintain systems and policies that are already working, “This year we are in a huge budget shortfall that could impact the services that we have in MCPS.” Ross strongly advocated for keeping IB and AP testing free as well as supporting social workers.”There are a lot more issues, but those are the two that I care about most,” Ross explained. 

Moderators asked what experience each candidate had that made them a knowledgeable candidate. Ross’s experience came from her work as an intern at MCPS central office, researching issues that affect students. Ross was also an MCR and is currently a part of the staff at the SMOB advisory council. “This experience helped see me through the whole thing and helped me understand what the prior SMOB does and what he cares about.¨

Tegegne had experience on the state SMOB’s operational team. “I’ve learned the process of what it’s like to be the person who makes the decisions, what it looks like to be calling all the shots.” Tegegne also brought up her experience being a minority in MCPS and was disappointed with how minorities were treated. “As a woman I understand what it’s like to have unfair treatment and a lack of opportunities in certain schools,” she stated. 

“I think the thing that makes my experience unique is having a mix of not only advocacy experience but experience in other areas as well,” Suvarna said. “I’ve been the class president for the past three years,” he continued. Suvarna was also MCR Vice President and had the opportunity to intern at the MCPS central office over the summer, which is the same place where the Board of Education members work.

The final question presented to the speakers concerned how they plan to accurately represent the diversity of the MCPS student body. Suvarna answered first, stating that he had a unique approach.¨One part of making sure students are well represented would be to have region-specific SMOB advisory councils,” he explained.

Tegegne noted how she noticed certain schools get favoritism over other schools, and certain opportunities are encouraged more. “It should not matter where a student goes to school; they should be given the same opportunities and environment to learn and excel academically,” she stated.

Ross said she fully commits to visiting every single middle school and high school, which has been very hard for some candidates in the past. She would also like to ensure that the three main languages are represented to explain what is going on at the Board of Education.

The prepared question section was followed by a series of student-led questions. The first of these questions highlighted the candidate’s stance on eliminating the 50% rule. Across all candidates, there was a consensus that the rule was beneficial for students not only within the county but country-wide, and therefore should be maintained.

Candidates also had an opportunity to reveal their more personal sides, including their favorite ice cream flavor, their favorite TV show, and their favorite movie, before sharing their final statements. 

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About the Contributors
Julien Holbrook, Staff Reporter
One of the most handsome,funny, and intelligent people on the staff (according to himself). Always committed to the story and most importantly the truth.
Nathaniel Seaman, Section Director
Nat is a B-CC senior and is reprising his role as section director of art and photography for the second year in a row. In his free time, Nat enjoys boxing, reading and photography.

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