Get to know the SMOB candidates


March 10, 2011, 2:36 p.m. | By Philipa Friedman | 11 years, 3 months ago


In this year's election for the 2011-2012 Student Member of the Board, the competition has been narrowed down to two contestants: incumbent Alan Xie and newcomer Hal Zeitlin, both juniors. We asked them about their positions on key issues for the upcoming year and a little about their qualifications. Stay tuned for the "Meet The Candidates" TV show, which will air on the MCPS cable channel beginning March 21.

Alan Xie (Incumbent)
Richard Montgomery High School
Grade 11

About which issue do you feel the most strongly? Why?

I'm committed to communication. Although issues such as the budget and SMOB voting rights are priorities for me, I see communication as the center of everything. To truly involve students and the community, we need strong avenues of communication. This year, I held county-wide town hall meetings, started the SMOB Council and established a centralized SMOB web site (mcsmob.org). Instead of passively waiting for students to get involved, I want to empower them by bringing information to them through face-to-face visits, morning announcements and school newspaper columns.

What, in your opinion, will be the biggest budget issues for the 2011-2012 school year and how do you plan to confront them?

Our biggest challenge will be meeting Maintenance of Effort (MOE). MOE is a state requirement that requires the County Council to provide at least the same funding per-pupil as last year. This year, the County Council doesn't intend to fully fund our budget, which could mean the loss of millions in increased state aid. However, I believe in collaboration with the County Council throughout the budget process so that we can ensure equitable funding for our school system.

What is your position on "gifted and talented" programs and why?

Our goal is to provide every child with a world-class quality of education tailored to their needs. As a student who attended both GT and magnet and is currently in the IB program, I can confidently say that these programs are challenging and rewarding opportunities for our students.

Both you and your opponent advocate for closing the achievement gap. What can you do in your term to ensure that steps are taken to achieve this goal?

There are many studies that link the achievement gap to socioeconomic status. But why should a person's birth determine their future academic success? We want all of our students to succeed, and be college...and life-ready by the time they graduate. What makes us unique is our belief in equality of opportunity. To address the achievement gap, we must ensure that all students have the same access to information and resources, regardless of their native language.

What do you believe the new superintendent will have to accomplish in order to be considered successful or effective? What will be the biggest issues facing him/her in the coming year?

Our new superintendent must be skilled and experienced enough to work in an extremely large and diverse school system. Our many active students, parents, staff and community groups provide a multifaceted perspective of education, and the new superintendent must be able to effectively communicate with all stakeholders. As the budget crisis continues, the new superintendent must also work effectively with the Board of Education and the County Council in order to develop a spirit of solidarity...and cooperation.

Why do you believe you are the better candidate for SMOB for the upcoming school year? What unique characteristic will you bring to the job?

Hal's a great guy who I've worked with in both SMOB Council and MCR-SGA, but I believe our school system needs an incumbent. With a new superintendent and a continuing budget crisis, we need a SMOB who knows the issues, knows the people and knows both the potential and limits of the position. I'm extremely passionate about what I do, and I bring dedication and persistence to the table. To me, it's all about communication, solidarity and cooperation.

If you could cross any two animals and create an epic hybrid animal, which would you cross, what would you make, and why?

I'd cross a phoenix and a hawk. It would be an immortal, smart, blazing,
predator bird. The wholphin came in second.

Hal Zeitlin
Winston Churchill High School
Grade 11

About which issue do you feel the most strongly? Why?

The issue I feel most strongly about is having teachers that are passionate and dedicated to their students. They are the key component to our education. When having a full schedule of inspiring teachers, not only will our students be educated, but they will be excited and prepared to take on the world.

What, in your opinion, will be the biggest budget issues for the 2011-2012 school year and how do you plan to confront them?

We have been providing public education to our residents for many years, and we have not fully questioned if our methods are efficient or inefficient. Where we can cut inefficiencies we can cut spending. We must look and see if our system holds any room for improvement...and when finding it, making ourselves a national model for one more reason.

What is your position on "gifted and talented" programs and why?

I feel that the gifted and talented program does have its purposes but in the end, it does operate unfairly against some students. I feel that our potential should be unlimited and assessed in its current status. When labeling a student, it...can send them a wrong message. Students should be in classes that fit them best; every student is gifted.

Both you and your opponent advocate for closing the achievement gap. What can you do in your term to ensure that steps are taken to achieve this goal?
This year I coordinated a county-wide diversity summit with students and MCPS staff including Board of Education members. After leading this, I have been working on a proposal to submit to schools to advocate for peer tutoring mentoring programs that enrich students and help the succeed in their academics. Not only will this have students work harder in school, but it will keep them motivated to stay out of trouble outside of school.

What do you believe the new superintendent will have to accomplish in order to be considered successful or effective? What will be the biggest issues facing him/her in the coming year?

...Our next superintendent must have a strong background with the budget as Dr. Weast did, possess effective communication skills, and be friendly and engaging. Although there is one thing I would like to see: innovative work towards helping kids. MCPS performs well academically, has many students, and truly deserves the best. What we need is dedication. Next year the biggest issue will be keeping our academics high while our spending low. If elected I will assist our new superintendent in knowing what is important to the students and working towards keeping these programs in place.

Why do you believe you are the better candidate for SMOB for the upcoming school year? What unique characteristic will you bring to the job?

I feel that I am the ideal candidate for SMOB. Not only does my outgoing personality resonate and allow me to relate with all students, but my knowledge and commitment will allow me to work well with my fellow Board members. In past years, regular students aren't pursued or informed by their SMOB, as if he or she becomes invisible. I want to start a clean record...In addition to working with the County Board as well as students, I will be present in Annapolis to make sure the student voice is alive in our State Legislature.

If you could cross any two animals and create an epic hybrid animal, which would you cross, what would you make, and why?

I will be creating an animal that represents me. I would cross an American Eagle and a Golden Retriever making a Golden Eagle...The Golden Retriever represents how I will work with our students as a companion and friend. Meanwhile the American Eagle represents how I am majestic and that people like this are valuable, but unfortunately going extinct.




Philipa Friedman. I am the Print Managing News Editor for the 2010-2011 school year. My other school-related extracurriculars include: French Honors Society Director of Carpentry, stage manager and sound technician for Blair theater Did you see that? No serial comma. PRINT RULES! More »

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