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.

by Madeline Hull, Editor In Chief

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. “