Two candidates run for student board seat Juniors from Meade, Annapolis seek voting position

March 18, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Pencils? Stickers? Bookmarks? A candidate has to woo the voters with something besides a five-minute stump pitch.

And those commodities might work when the candidates in question are Anne Arundel County high school students, vying for a position that has been described as the most powerful teen-ager in America: the only student member of a school board with full voting privileges.

Middle and high school delegates will vote Thursday on whether they want Christopher R. Barbour, a Meade Senior High School junior, or Jennifer K. Svara, an Annapolis Senior High School junior, as their representative on the eight-member county school board for the one-year term that starts July 1.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening will make the appointment based on the students' vote, and governors generally go along with students' picks.

The candidates are deciding on giveaways, making posters, polishing their speeches and preparing for a question-and-answer session. It's a quick campaign: It takes place the morning of the vote.

Both students say they are familiar with the issues and can provide an effective student voice on the board. Both are active in student government, sports and extracurricular activities.

Both say they are concerned about the planned state high school assessment, the county schools' student code of conduct and dress code, and how to better educate the one-third of high school students who have less than a C average.

And they don't disagree that it is crucial to get more and better resources -- from graphing calculators to textbooks -- for students.

Barbour, 17, lives on Fort Meade. Quarterback of the county champion football team, he is pushing for the county to return to activity buses so that more teen-agers can participate in high school after-hour events.

"Trying to get more people into activities is hard because people say, 'Well, I don't have a ride home,' " he said.

Svara, 16, lives in Rolling Knolls. A regional finalist in high school debating -- her debate is Saturday -- she said the school board should take an active role in improving the atmosphere in schools and pushing for achievement.

"If it is a better atmosphere, the students will be better. They will be proud of what they do," she said.

The student board member consults with student government representatives but is not required to vote the position of the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.

One other teen-ager is running for the school board this year.

Terry Gilleland, 19, the student representative on the board for 1994-1995, is seeking a five-year at-large seat on the board. "A year is not enough," he said.

During his year on the board, for example, Gilleland pressed for a dress code. The board adopted one in December, but it won't take effect until August.

Gilleland said high schoolers running for office need to know that the job is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of time away from study and fun, and the student member faces pressure to act one way or another, especially from other board members during executive sessions.

"It's strenuous. Tempers flare and voices are raised," he said.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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