Process for Student Member of the Board election begins

Photo via Twitter

By Natalie Adams

Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils (CRASC) held an informational meeting about the upcoming Student Member of the Board (SMOB) election process. It was the first of three informative meetings, at which attendees learned about nomination, campaigning, election, appointment, and expectations. The SMOB is an equal member of the board in vote and merit, works on committees, and advocates for all AACPS students, but the position is only open to rising seniors.

The meeting was held on Wednesday, February 6th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Severna Park High School. Juniors from Arundel, Severna Park, South River, Glen Burnie, North East, Annapolis, and Broadneck high schools attended with their parents.

Wednesday’s meeting opened the nomination period, which closes on March 1st. All attendees were provided a nomination form, and the only requirements are to be a current junior in good academic standing.

Once nominated, the student must complete their application, which includes a resume, written responses, and letters of recommendation, and is due by March 7th. There are three written responses, which applicants should use to develop their platform, are completed online, and are about 100 words each. Three letters of recommendations are also required, one from a teacher, one from a principal or advisor, and one from another adult such as a coach or supervisor. It is recommended that applicants ask for their recommendations early in the process.

The interviews are held on March 18th. Applicants must complete a 20 minute interview by a panel made up of four students and one adult. Applicants are scored based on their interview and the three highest scorers move on to the debate.

The debate is from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on April 4th. It is televised, student moderated, and held at the AACPS Parham Building. This is the time when candidates present their platform before the election.

The election will be held on May 31st from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Whichever candidate receives the most votes will then be appointed by the governor as the SMOB.

Wednesday’s meeting was led by CRASC President Anthony Liberatori, CRASC Vice President Coleman Campbell, and current SMOB Josie Urrea. They gave a presentation about general information, the election process, and input about their personal experiences running for SMOB and CRASC.

Urrea has been an advocate for students since she was in middle school and is a long-time member of CRASC. She described herself as one of the more involved SMOB’s from recent years, meaning that the SMOB can be as active or inactive as they want. The SMOB is only required to attend the bi-weekly Board of Education meetings, but Urrea explained, “I go to every event, or at least try to.” Urrea even has a second phone, like a business phone, for all the work she does as the SMOB.

While being the SMOB is an honor and important position, it does have some drawbacks. Urrea explained that she only attends school once or twice a week and had to give up other activities, like sports, to be the SMOB. This was concerning to some attendees, but Urrea reassured them that “it’s really just a balance of your activities and time,” and, “if you’re open and you communicate, you’re teachers and principal will be understanding.”

Some benefits to being the SMOB are the $8,000 scholarship they receive at the end of their term and the monthly stipend that can be used to pay for food and transportation. Urrea stressed to attendees the importance of having a car, but also stated that Uber is a viable alternative form of transportation.

At this point, attendees started to raise questions. One parent explained that she understood what the SMOB is, but had never heard of CRASC before. This statement was corroborated by several other attendees.

CRASC is essentially the SGA (Student Government Association) for Anne Arundel County. Stacy Pellegrin, the CRASC advisor, stepped in and explained that CRASC organizes events called General Assemblies (GA’s) throughout the county about things like mental health and leadership, but they focus on “whatever the students are passionate about.” Information about these events is sent to the SGA, counseling office, AVID, and Signature program at each school, and these groups then invite students to the events. Every middle and high school student enrolled in AACPS is technically a member of CRASC and represented by the organization.

Many attendees were still confused about the role of CRASC, but were consoled when Campbell stated, “before February of last year, I had never heard of CRASC either.” He explained that he had attended one of CRASC’s events and found out about the SMOB position. He decided to run, but lost to Urrea and became the Vice President of CRASC instead.

Campbell reassured attendees that they can still run for SMOB if they have never been involved in CRASC before, and Liberatori stated that CRASC was a good alternative if they thought the SMOB position was either too much to handle or if they did not win.

Another concern was how well possible nominees would be able to keep up with their school work and be the SMOB if they had a full schedule.

Students in magnet programs and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are required to take a full schedule their senior year, and with Urrea’s earlier statement that she only attends school once or twice a week, this fact became worrisome.

In regard to this concern, Terry Gilleland, the new President of the Board of Education, who attended the meeting stated, “I would never want to deter someone. If you want it bad enough and win, you’ll find some way to make it work.” He also cited a good support network as being helpful.

Liberatori also reminded attendees that CRASC was a good alternative to the SMOB if they wanted to stay involved, but did not think they could handle the position.

It was suggested that possible nominees attend a board meeting to see what it is like to sit on the board, review their social media to ensure they have a positive public image, and consider other obligations like sports, internships, work, and their class schedule for the upcoming school year. Attendees were also informed that applications can  be rescinded at any time.

There is another meeting on Wednesday, February 13th at Arundel High School from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This meeting will be a clinic focused on platform development, how to prepare for the election, and public speaking. Nominees are encouraged to attend, but all students are welcome, even if they would like to run for the SMOB or a CRASC officer position and did not attend the first meeting.