Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, September 07, 2006

School Board Part II

As I said yesterday I am going to be posting a lot on the school board elections in the next couple days. Among a very long collection of pre-primary letters to the editor in today’s Columbia Flier/Howard County Times is my letter on the school board race. Go read all of the letters, but to make it easier for you here is mine:

At the end of the last school year school board member Patricia Gordon wrote a letter to the editor of the Flier/Times (in the May 25 edition) opposing giving the student representative on the Board of Education full voting rights. In this very condescending letter Patricia Gordon writes: "I believe that board matters should be in the hands of those who have a background in decision-making (not just school matters) which will assist them in coming to rational conclusions." If our school system isn't providing graduating seniors with the ability to make decisions it is really a reflection of the current school board, including Mrs. Gordon.

I am a proud graduate of Oakland Mills High School's class of '96, and my memory of my peers is that they were thoroughly capable of making decisions. In fact, I remember many a discussion of school policy where my peers then were more aware of where the strengths and the problems needing fixing were than people who had spent less time seeing them day in and day out.

Luckily, even though Mrs. Gordon managed to block the student rep from voting, we the voters can choose a person who just graduated to serve as a full member of the school board. Di Zou just graduated from Glenelg High School and will be studying math and physics at the University of Maryland this year. He would bring to the Board of Education a knowledge of what works and what needs fixing from the insights he gained by going through the system and spending day in and day out seeing the actual results policies have.

He will also bring the tech skills to ask the tough questions and make sure the system buys technology that works rather than computer systems like the current grade-recording software.

As I mentioned yesterday several of the perceived front-runners in the school board race are severely flawed and I think do not deserve to get onto the general election ballot. Top among these as you can see above is Pat Gordon. You can read her full condescending letter to the editor here. I do not think anyone who is condescending to students should serve on the Board of Education. It is the Boards job to make sure students have the decision making ability to function in life. If by the time students are graduating seniors they do not have this ability to decide issues they have an intimate knowledge of from the activity that dominates their day to day lives, then the Board is doing something horribly wrong. For Pat Gordon to write that letter after nearly 6 years on the board speaks volumes.

Follow me to the next post for my case why Di Zou will be a great addition to the Board of Education:

2 Comments:

Anonymous mary smith said...

Evan,

Perhaps you were the exceptionally mature 17 year old in high school, and perhaps you haven't had the opportunity to parent teenagers, but realistically speaking, statistically speaking, a child voting on the school board might not be a good idea. How are voters supposed to evalutate the student? While I do not agree with condescension from any quarter, maybe a bit of caution in in order.

Can you see the perspective wherein this could be similar to companies having a measure of control over the regulatory agency that oversees the same industry?

Unless the school board is not making weighty decisions that affect the entire county, I can't imagine what could have prompted this proposal (and now evolved into charter/policy).

7:14 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Mary,

A student voting for a member of the school board would be no different than a teacher or a parent. They all have something at stake and are governed by the policies of the board. Right now students are the only ones who are denied a vote in who governs them. What is that old saying? "No taxes without representation."

The real issue is not whether the student rep should have a vote, but how the student rep should be elected. To give the student rep a vote will require teachers to take the election a lot more seriously when it is done and will require a more transparent voting process. However giving the student rep a vote and running the elections effectively will teach decision making and civic participation. Two things that we should be making sure all students get before graduation.

With today's technology (MySpace.com, blogs, etc) the student elections could be great discussions of school policy by those who see the results of school policy up close. Now that we have a larger board the impact of one or even two student reps on the board would add voice without overwhelming the voice of regular voters.

I am not sure I got your comment about "satistically speaking" unless it was what I just addressed above and I really don't think based on watching my peers or even when I was substitute teaching in the school system that I was any more mature or aware of the impact of policies than the other students. Kid's maturity levels normally drop 8 to 10 years when they are around their parents, I know I have had moments when my maturity sadly has, so parent should be careful about underestimating their kid's maturity.

I strongly believe students will take these elections seriously if the student rep has a vote and is treated by the rest of the board with respect.

Of course in the meantime the next best thing is to get someone who has just graduated on the board and Di Zou certainly has the maturity to do a great job.

2:54 PM  

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