SMOB Candidates Hannah Morin and Brady Vlha give their speeches at the Board of Education. (Graphic by Evelyn Stewart)
SMOB Candidates Hannah Morin and Brady Vlha give their speeches at the Board of Education.

Graphic by Evelyn Stewart

2022 Student Member of the Board elections: LHS Morin and Vlha run for a seat on the Board of Education

"Encourage your friends to make an educated vote, Don't just tell them 'Hey go vote for Hannah' while I would appreciate that, I want the students to have someone they actually want on the board." - Hannah Morin

January 21, 2022

Every January, students from high schools across the county take part in the election to become FCPS’s next Student Member of the Board, more commonly known as the SMOB. 

The SMOB is student representative for all the high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools within their designated county. Their job is to collect input from the students and then advocate for what they believe students need. They take the information gathered from the students and put it on the table during the FCPS Board of Education meetings. Though the student member of the board does not hold any voting power, they can still persuade other members of the board to listen and take into consideration what the majority of students want.

This year, two out of the five candidates running for SMOB are Linganore high school students; Hannah Morin(Junior) and Brady Vlha(Junior).

Principal Cindy Hanlon said, “I am very proud of both Brady and Hannah for their hard work, determination, and perseverance in running for an elected office as high school students. They are motivated to serve their school community, and I am grateful for their leadership.

Voting takes place online from January 6 – January 27, 2022.

Lancer Media invited Morin and Vlha to share their platform and answer questions.

Hannah Morin runs her SMOB campaign on learning, mental health, environmental education, testing

SMOB+candidate+Hannah+Morin+visited+each+high+school+in+Frederick+County+to+give+a+small+speech+through+her+Instagram+when+the+election+opened+January+6.+

graphic by Caroline Hobson

SMOB candidate Hannah Morin visited each high school in Frederick County to give a small speech through her Instagram when the election opened January 6.

Junior Hannah Morin is running for Student Member of the Board (SMOB) for Frederick County Public Schools. If elected Morin will attend Board of Education meetings and express student concerns. Each student running is basing their campaign on a platform. Morin has four main ideas interwoven into her campaign:

“The loss of learning. So when I start training my platform it was like months and obviously, covid has gotten really bad recently so there’s a chance of us going virtually. How are we going to try and keep kids in school because I think a lot of us can agree that we get a better education here than we do online. After virtual how can we make that better how can be increased in interaction and how can we monitor the younger students, the Elementary School students make sure they’re staying on grade for reading and writing levels because that’s a big issue because of high schoolers I know we don’t exactly want to attend online classes every day but change my computer I like there was a big loss of learning and instruction. My platform is how can we test schools to try and see where they’re at, and how can you do individualize and personalized resources to address these gaps in their education.”

“Mental health. This would reflect upon what the board has done so far as mental health and how can we get more effective resources. Last year we had our social-emotional learning but how can we find a better way to get resources at our house school in-between ages and then advocate for staff training about recognizing the signs. I would advocate for more school counselors and more therapists in schools to create more personalized connections. Here at Linganore we only have 4 or 5 counselors, and I mean that’s crazy that they can’t be responsible for our emotions, class changes, and college preparedness. We need a new therapist in our schools and psychologists.”

“Environment. I’ve been researching between two reusable utensils that’s going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumption in our school system.”

“Standardized testing.” Just a reduction of standardized testing in high school and there’s plenty of studies out there. . . it is not really beneficial to us a lot of stress cause a lot of anxiety session at high schools were already taking AP exams and SATS’s. 

How has Morin prepared for this leadership role?

‘I’ve been class president through high school, and  I’ve tried reach-out because a lot of students are even getting that are at the events that we do for SMOB all ready advocate for themselves and they already like they’re already bring issues to attention so they explain. Being class president has taught me is do I need to reach out to all students in Frederick County, not just those already interested in student government.”

What does SMOB mean to Morin?

“I first knew that I wanted to run for the student member of the board when I was in middle school  I went to the Town Hall Forum in Downtown Frederick and I was just so inspired by how the people were that were running well spoken they were giving their speeches and answering questions. I’ve always loved student leadership . . . I knew from then that I was going to run my junior year.”

What are some concerns that Morin wants to discuss with the Board of Education?

“I support the Board’s current position of masks in schoo,l but with the updated mask policy a lot of it boils down to personal responsibility. That’s a big issue right now because the Board can say something, but if it’s not being carried out through schools, that’s where the issues comes from. Covid cases are rising, and I would like to think that as regards to [the possibility of ] school shutting down, it will kind of able students to keep their masks on and contacting schools if they were exposed with COVID-19.  It’s all about educating students.”

“Schools need to continue following up and making sure that we’re being precautionary and reactionary to certain threats. Students feeling unsafe in schools is unacceptable, no matter what the issues is.”

What is your position on mental health days?

“Obviously students could abuse that and use it as a way to skip school, and I can see that being an arguments for why we shouldn’t do it. Personally, I would support that [Mental Health Days] because I think students are going to find a way either way. . . I think it’s a great way to destigmatize mental health [issues].”   

How would Morin improve student participation?

“For the election I have been utilizing social media (@hannah4smobfcps). I follow people and contact people I can I reached out to. . . I’ve met with different high school students. We are an online world. Everything we do is online. Right now social media is really what I plan to utilize, but, that being said, I represent everyone–middle schoolers, elementary schoolers–so it would be about going on school visits and talking to school SGAs at their level and at PTSAs at the elementary school level.”

How does Morin plan to represent all students, even those with language barriers?

“Honestly, that is such a great question. I definitely think I need to start putting out my resources in Spanish, too, because you’re right. There is a language difference within Frederick County, and it does need to be addressed.”

“For the differently abled student body, it’s about speaking to the teachers that work the special education programs.”  

“I touched base on a mental-health committee, but I also want to create a committee that focuses on diversity between students as well as a SMOB advisory committee that allows me to be connecting with students on issues that I couldn’t speak of.  I haven’t had the same experience as everyone in this room has, so it’s really important to continue to connect with the students to form relationships within the county and represent everyone. “

“That’s one of my strengths. I would describe myself as a very personal person. I love to go out and meet new people. I love to form connections with people. It’s really just about reaching out to as many different groups of people as I can. Expanding your social group is really important, especially for being SMOB, because obviously I want to advocate for all the students in Frederick County.”

What does Morin expect next year?

“You really are in the spotlight. If I was like lucky enough to be voted into the next student member of the board, I would expect a lot of contact with parents, especially if Covid is still a raging issue in July, which it most likely could be. It is really just sticking up for the students and advocating for what they want to do, even if I’m getting angry parent emails. That’s the role of the SMOB is being an advocate for the students.”

What are Morin’s future plans?

“I have considered doing something in government. . . I want to go to major in international relations. I really love the economy and the world. Being the SMOB will open a new perspective on what a life in government and politics would look like, so I’m definitely curious to see if that’ll if that’s what I want to do with my life.”

What should students be most concerned about?

“Whatever the issues are in their schools. The issues we have at Linganore are not going to be the same as the issues in Oakdale Middle school. I just want students to be advocating for themselves. We know the issues that we face every day, and I think people should take  personal responsibility for themselves and others.”

What makes Morin different that other candidates?

“I’m a very optimistic person, and I think that’s important in this world. The Board of Education is under a spotlight right now, and that is a lot to deal with, but it is something personally I know that I could do. I know I could deal with the backlash and still advocate for the students.”

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Student Member of the Board candidate Brady Vlha pushes for change, open to hearing concerns

Brady Vlha is running for the 2022-2023 Student Member of the Board. The SMOB is a non-voting member of the BOE that voices the opinions of Frederick County students.

Graphic by Mia Lucas

Brady Vlha is running for the 2022-2023 Student Member of the Board. The SMOB is a non-voting member of the BOE that voices the opinions of Frederick County students.

Junior Brady Vlha is running for Student Member of the Board (SMOB) for Frederick County Public Schools. If elected, Vlha will attend Board of Education meetings and express student concerns. Each student running is basing their campaign on a platform of concerns.

This is Vlha’s platform:

“Increased communication from FCPS and school principals to students, especially regarding safety. Recently at Linganore, there have been safety concerns, and students have expressed their frustration with the lack of communication. I am passionate about looking at those safety issues. and how we can better respond to them as well as how the Board can better communicate with us, so we are aware of what is going on around us.”

“I am also committed to making sure every student has equitable access to resources. Know that is different than having equal resources. The word equitable means “giving students exactly what they need based on their needs.” Some students may need more than other students to reach the same level of success. Some students may need additional tutoring to get the same grade that someone might need no tutoring.”

“I am so very passionate about getting people to know what the Student Member of the Board does and stands for. It’s not so much about coming in and saying, ‘I’m going to get rid of hats and change the curriculum. It’s a lot more about responding to the Boards’ policies and seeing how we can influence change and get them talking about the things we want.”

“Finally, I am committed to pushing for increased communication between students and their SMOB. By using platforms that students feel most comfortable with using. If you prefer writing a letter and send it in the mail or a DM on Twitter. Whatever it is, I want to make sure every single student has a way to reach the SMOB.”

How has Vlha prepared for the leadership role of SMOB?

“I’ve been involved a lot in my community. I live in a very small town and I know that we have a lot of issues that people are prominent about talking about. So I have been involved around those types of people, who are constantly pushing for change and such a small area where your voice can be heard. I’ve gotten involved in projects within my community, currently, I am working on a project that my local community park that will include the restoration of pavilions and gardening that will spruce up the park and improve the environment.”

“Last year, I wrote a letter to my town’s government and their office on the traffic concerns on my street. All of our houses are very close to the street, 10,000 cars come by each day, the dust and the structural damage, and the dangers to safety, it is a real problem. So, I have already advocated for change and they called a meeting together based on my letter to discuss the issue. I have tried to put myself out there in the community and try to make a difference in the lives of my neighbors and the people I know. Going back to Linganore High School, I ran for Class Historian to get more people involved especially males. Class councils typically don’t have men involved, and I tried to spread information in Class Council around to broaden everyone’s understanding of current issues.”

What does the SMOB opportunity mean to Vlha?

“I’ve known about student members of the board for a long time. The first account I had with it was back in 2016 when I was in Middle School. The Current SMOB at the time promised me that they would attend my school’s SGA meetings and learn about the problems that happened at our school. I remember waiting, and they never came. They promised us and never showed up. From that moment I knew that with regards to SMOB, that I would like to see someone who kept the promise. I never initially wanted to run for SMOB, It wasn’t something I even thought about until mid-way through this year.”

“I had a good teacher who suggest I run for SMOB, and in a very short time frame, I had a lot of people supporting me and suggesting I would be a good SMOB. I submitted my application and said, ‘If they select me, then I’ll put everything I got into this,’ and that’s what I did.”

“I ran for SMOB because I wanted to represent those voices and concerns of the students I interact with within my everyday life. There are so many issues talked about in this school, yet I feel like those are not the issues the board is concerned about. I want to spark certain conversations about topics the board seems to push away from. Whether they choose to change it or not, If students want to talk about issues, they have to be able to talk about it and the Board has got to listen to that. That’s all they need to do, just listen.”

How will Vlha address today’s biggest issues?

“I know a lot of students have a very passionate opinion on wearing masks, and it seems to me that there is more negative talk than positive about wearing masks. I know a lot of people would give pretty much everything to not have to wear them. As far as that goes, It’s a safety issue.”

“The best thing we could do about it  is make it clear to the Board what the student’s opinions are on the mask mandate and ensure our opinion is known. Personally, right now is a time where masks are definitely a good idea to have on. As much as I hate to say it myself, we are in a very bad COVID-19 time and in a time where masks are needed.”

“I know teachers that no matter how many times they tell someone to pull up their masks, they will pull it up, and as soon as the teacher walks away it’s back down. It is so disrespectful and a very difficult situation for teachers to handle. No matter how many times you try it’s very hard for kids to go against what they want to do and keep their masks above their noses. No matter how many times we enforce masks and other policies there will always be people who go against it. “

What is Vlha’s position on Mental Health days being used as sick days?

“That is definitely a problem that the Board needs to look at. The fact that mental health is not considered an excused absence, shows that they don’t value the mental health that students may need. It is a tough thing for them to balance with and sometimes issues like that go beyond FCPS and the Board of Education and go to the Maryland State Department of Education.

“It is a serious problem if a student feels they are not in the correct mental state to receive the proper education and that they are not excused from school or at least have a set number of days they can use. On the flip side, it could be misused and students will lose a day of learning. It comes a lot down to students receiving an education and I’m not in the position to say whether they triumph kids going to school over a mental health day.”

How do you get students involved?

“There is only so much you can do. No matter how hard you try there will always be people who don’t want anything to do with it. I just have to make sure that I am there for the people who do want to be involved, want the experience, and want to share their problems and issues. The best thing you can do is so share things around with other people. It comes to the issues of exposure. The election process is a great way to get people to talk about change. “

“People want to talk about it. They just don’t have a place to do it. I am just a candidate, but I have had multiple very long and powerful conversations with students on issues they need to change. I can’t even do anything yet, I am just a candidate, I have no voice. It goes to show how passionate students are.”

How will Vlha communicate with all students?

“As far as the language barrier, the only way I see as to get to those students would be either through some sort of translations, which I do not like the idea of, or use relationships that those students and built and reach out to them that can talk to me. I would be joking if I said I would learn a bunch of languages and talk to everyone in their preferred language. Just making sure they have access to some type of resource whether it is a person or a service, to find a way to have them communicate with me. It is a tough issue and I do think their opinion tends to get excluded, and I want to avoid that as much as possible”.

“I would hope that the aides in the special education department have a general understanding of the types of issues and problems students with special needs go through that they face daily. They might not be able to talk about their problems themselves, hold a conversation with me and explain so, I would reach out to the aids in a certain department and hope the relationships they have built with their students and have conversations with them on what needs changing.”

‘Our school has a lot of different clubs, and for right now I see that as the best way to get to those types of groups that typically share similar types of opinions within one group. That’s why they are all together in a group. If I could talk to the president or someone willing to talk to me about issues they are facing and the opinions within the group that maybe be afraid to speak up. Or even talking to the advisor of the group will still give me an insight on what I need to bring up with the Board of Education.”

It’s difficult to be a member of a Board of Education today.

“I expect nothing more from this position than just being able to talk to as many people as I can and listen as well as understand the problems they are facing. I don’t expect any power or award, I just want to be a voice for the people who haven’t been heard enough.”

“Usually when we hear things about the board of education, especially recently, they are not in positive light, and it is typically negative connotations. . . I do worry about the harassment towards the Board in general, but as far as myself, the SMOB’s typically have a good level of respect with students and parents. I’m not worried about being “harassed” enough for it to impact the way I lead or the things I say.”

What should students be concerned about?

“Safety issues. It’s not something that should be overlooked. FCPS still needs to review the way they handle certain issues and events.”

“The possibility of going back to virtual school. The COVID-19 numbers keep rising and we’ve closed schools before this isn’t something new. If we want to stay in school we have to do our part and express it to the Board of Education.”

“It’s more than just the parents and board members who make decisions. It’s the 44,000 of us students that say what we want.”

How will Vlha choose what issues to bring forth?

“My opinion on things is nothing more than one students bringing it up to me. If the majority of students want to wear hats in school buildings, that’s what I’m going to bring up to board members. Whatever I agree with it or not, it’s the majority. I will not let my opinion on something triumph other students opinions that they have reach-out to me about.”

“It also comes down to prioritizing and repetition of student concerns.”

How is Vlha different than the four other candidates?

“My desire to be relatable to students. I try to be as different and unique from the other candidates as possible. On Instagram (@bradyfortheboe) I try to post things that typically are something that would seen on an election campaign. “

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