Representing Harford's student body

Duty: C. Milton Wright High senior Michael Morey takes his role on the Harford school board seriously - and so do his colleagues.

October 26, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Michael Morey is like any other 17-year-old, who would much rather hang out with his friends than worry about homework, tests and college applications.

Come Monday night, though, Morey is focused on only one thing - the Harford County Board of Education meeting.

Such is the life of the school board's student representative, who has been assigned the task of giving a voice to the 40,000 students in Harford's public schools. No longer just a sounding board for student gripes, recent representatives have become more vocal and bring with them issues they would like to tackle during the yearlong commitment.

"When [student representatives] first started, it was an experiment ... to see if a student could deal with adults and handle very complicated issues that come before the board," said schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. "Over the years as the students have proven themselves, the board has given them more responsibilities and taken them more seriously."

Morey, a senior at C. Milton Wright High School, can talk just as easily about cafeteria food and the dress code as he can about complicated challenges, such as overcrowding and school security, facing Harford County schools. As a result, his perspective and insights are valued by school officials and board members.

Board member Eugene C. Chandler said he listens when Morey has something to say.

Morey is "one of the most astute student representatives we've had on the board," Chandler said. "He brings multiple sides of the issue - what the middle school students think, what the high school students think, and what the student councils think. ... That's very important for the board to hear."

Morey is the 16th student representative on the board and the fourth elected from C. Milton Wright since 1988. All but two of the 24 school districts in Maryland have a student representative or member sitting on local school boards, according to the State Department of Education.

Not all have equal voting rights, though. While Anne Arundel County's student member can vote on every matter, others sitting on Baltimore-area school boards have limited voting rights or none at all. In Harford County, Morey's vote is recorded in meeting minutes but does not count.

The process to become a student representative is demanding. In Harford County, interested juniors submit a speech and several recommendations to the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils, which then elects the student representative in December. The one-year term begins in July when the student representative-elect becomes a high school senior.

"Coming from a family that's politically active, I thought it was important to influence issues coming before the county," Morey said. "It sounds naive, but I wanted to do it. The main thing that got me going was overcrowding not only in C. Milton but in schools around the county.

"The other thing, too, is the fact that I've always been a person who wants to be where the action is and voice my discontent or praise," Morey added. "As a student, you don't want to sit back and let things happen to you, but rather you happen to the issues."

Carl Holston, Morey's ninth-grade honors government teacher who wrote one of the recommendation letters, said his former student displayed qualities that make Morey a "natural fit" for the position.

"He has a good attitude," Holston said. "He's got the personality for it. He's got the schmoozing down. You have to have the ease and ability to communicate."

Morey, who is third among five children in his family, got his start in politics early. The honors student used to listen to radio news shows, particularly the Marc Steiner Show, with his dad on his way to middle school, Morey said.

Raised in Arlington, Va., and Pennsylvania, Morey's family moved to Harford County in 1995. Morey attended Churchville Elementary School and Harford Day School, where he was president of its student council.

Along with his responsibility as a school board representative, Morey is treasurer of C. Milton Wright's student council. If he weren't busy enough, Morey also runs cross country, is a mentor to ninth-graders and has participated in theater productions - although he says he probably won't have time to be an actor this year.

In balancing his various tasks, Morey takes his role among the adults on the school board seriously. In fact, one thing Morey has taken on as his main issue is overcrowding in Harford County schools, where some exceed their capacity.

At a school board meeting this month, Morey's ears perked up as he listened to Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas' report on two proposed housing developments in Havre de Grace.

"I was wondering what is the projected student enrollment based on the two developments in Havre de Grace," Morey asked Haas and other school officials in attendance. They did not have an answer for Morey that night, however.

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