SMOB Candidates weigh in

April 23, 2013, 11:10 a.m. | By Melissa Arias | 11 years, 1 month ago

Richard Montgomery junior Andrew Zhang and Poolesville junior Justin Kim want your votes

This year the Montgomery County Student Member of the Board (SMOB) candidates include Richard Montgomery junior Andrew Zhang, and Poolesville junior Justin Kim. They both have experience with student government and bringing change to the community, as well as the desire to be your SMOB. SCO asked them both about why they feel you should vote for them this week.

Voting between SMOB candidates Andrew Zhang (left) and Justin Kim (right) will take place Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Why did you decide to run for SMOB?

Andrew Zhang, being a Montgomery County resident, believes that there is no other county that has better education. His goal is to continue that standard. "In the 8 years I've been an MCPS student, I've been all over the county and met different students with diverse interests. I understand the potential students have for change and for the future. I have the ability to lead our Montgomery County students with my experience, innovation, and communication. It's important for us to recognize and realize the potential and influence of the students. Only together can we fight for what we deserve,” Zhang said.

Justin Kim has been interested in the SMOB position ever since he started realizing what opportunities to impact students and the education system that SMOB has. "When I first got involved in SMOB Council several years ago, I saw that students were able to implement new initiatives and make a real difference in our school system. The position of the Student Member of the Board is a unique opportunity for me to continue to serve the students of Montgomery County. As SMOB, I want to work and hear from all of the students in MCPS, because every perspective needs to be heard,” Kim said.

Why do you feel that you would make a good SMOB? Why should students vote for you?

Zhang feels that has had sufficient experience and that he is able to incorporate his experience with student government in his SMOB campaign. "I've got the involvement and the experience. On a regular basis, I work with other student leaders in different organizations such as MCR (county-level SGA) and MASC (state-level SGA), the current SMOB, past SMOBs, and current board and county council members. Currently, I serve on MCR Executive Board as Public Relations Deputy. I already have experience with increasing outreach and communication efforts, efforts I will only further expand if elected. Our SMOB has to hear everyone's voice and represent those voices at different levels. I will advocate for your budget, your rights, and the preservation of your interests,” Zhang said.

Kim, however, believes that he is the only candidate that has had real experience with creating change in student's lives, and the school system. "Every year, different SMOB candidates promise to bring change. However, this election is not about issues or grandiose promises, but it's about who has the experience bringing real change to our school system and will continue to do so once elected into office. It's about who will be able to follow through with his promises.” His experience ranges from SMOB committees to lobbying in his free time. "I've testified to the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee speaking out in strong support of expanding our SMOB's voting rights. Earlier this year I met with Governor O'Malley to discuss technology use in schools and making higher education more affordable. I've been to the state house opposing additional High School graduation requirement. I've helped to defeat the curfew at the County Council Town hall last year. I've sat in Board of Education Policy Committee learning more about how our system works and about the issues, which affect our school system every day. For these many years, I've worked tirelessly to bring real results and to follow through on my promises,” Kim said.

What do you plan to accomplish in your SMOB term? What are your goals?

Even with budget obstacles, Zhang still plans to bring about changes and give students a voice. "Many measures I would like to tackle are restricted by our current budget. Although 2.23 billion dollars is a hefty sum, it has to be spread across our entire county for students, teachers, and other support staff. It's important for the SMOB to have a vote on the budget. I will continue the fight for full SMOB Voting Rights to make sure I have a say on the board in communicating the student voice,” Zhang said.

Kim believes the SMOB should have a clear goal for the school system. He believes that he is the right person who can bring specific policies arise. "We need someone with a vision for our school system, but also someone with a realistic perspective of the students. We need someone who truly understands the issues but also has a way to solve them. As SMOB, my work will be centered around these three key goals: 1) Increase student input in the policy and the budget making process. 2) Refocus our strategic plan to close the achievement gap. 3) Ensure that all of our students graduate with a strong academic and social foundation that prepares them for the future. With these goals in mind, I want to work together with our students to bring a brighter future for MCPS,” Kim said.

Zhang understands that there are many students with different backgrounds and experiences, and he says he will strive to give every one of these students a voice. "My campaign starts with a simple, powerful idea: the idea that all students have distinct voices and interests. It is our responsibility as students to make them known. The focus of my campaign is to distill all these voices into a single voice, communicated to the Board of Education, to improve the quality of our education,” Zhang said.

Justin Kim's campaign is to not only represents the students, but to bring awareness to the students: that they can get involve and bring change. "With close to 150,000 students in MCPS, students are the largest stakeholders in our school system, but are noticeably underrepresented in making critical decisions, which shape our school system. One of my priority as SMOB will be to increase the student input in the policy and the budget making process. As SMOB I want to make sure that students are being proactive, not reactive to the policies of the Board of Education. But at the same time we need to recognize that the SMOB is not just for the few involved in the SGA, because the SMOB belongs to every student of Montgomery County. I want to bring students to the table, hear their concerns, and incorporate their ideas into our solutions,” Kim said.

SMOB elections take place during school Wednesday.

Tags: Montgomery County Board of Education Student Member of the Board

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