Speak Out

Your Opinions

October 16, 2005

THE ISSUE -- Jeff Lasser, the student member on the Howard County Board of Education, and other student leaders are lobbying the school board for partial voting rights. Lasser casts an opinion vote, which is recorded in the minutes but does not count. He has presented a proposal that would grant the student member the right to vote on all issues, except the budget, disciplinary personnel matters, school boundaries and closings, and collective bargaining. The five-member school board wants to hear from voters about the prospect of essentially adding another voting member to its ranks. That would bring to eight the number of members on the panel next year when the school board adds two more members. What do you think of allowing a student member to vote on many issues?

Voice of student would help board

No matter what their race, ethnicity, or background, the elected members of the Board of Education lack one essential element of diversity: they are older - sometimes much older -than the students whose interests they are elected to serve. With this difference in age comes an inevitable divide. Try as they may, adult board members and school system staff members cannot fully grasp the needs, perspectives and experiences of students.

A student voice on the Board of Education is essential. That voice will be much more meaningful if it is backed up with voting rights.

So yes, I do support voting rights for the student member of the Howard County Board of Education.

David White Ellicott City

Student member offers reasons

As the current student member of the Board of Education, I would like to give the reasons for why I am pursuing partial voting rights. I, along with the students of Howard County, feel that the student perspective needs an official way to influence Board policy. The students of Howard County are those for whom the school system was created and continues to serve. The students of this community spend more hours during the week in school and in school-related activities than they do anywhere else.

From this extensive involvement, coming from being in schools for at least 10 years, student members of the Board of Education have expressed and will continue to contribute a valuable and insightful opinion of how best to improve Board policy. However, the current policy, which allows for an opinion vote, means that the student member must take on the immense responsibility of convincing the other Board members to cast a vote aligned with the student perspective.

We seek an official vote to ensure that the student perspective is accurately represented on all issues directly affecting students, as no other board member can express this unique point-of-view.

Student members have proven themselves to be dedicated, responsible, mature, and loyal to their constituents. Now is the time to move forward and allow for the Howard County Public School System to benefit from the contributions of a voting student member.

We encourage all members of the community in favor of this initiative to show their support by signing an online petition at www.petitiononline.com/hcboesmv/ or by testifying at the public hearing at the Board of Education on Oct. 27.

Jeff Lasser Clarksville

The writer is the student member of the Board of Education of Howard County

Voting issue is about the students

I feel that the students should have a vote that is counted. After all, this is about the students.

Vikki A. Raven Ellicott City

Other counties give student vote

Six Boards of Education in Maryland contain student members with voting rights - Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the Maryland State Department of Education.

Howard County is not one of them. There have been no recorded complaints about voting student members in the other counties. With partial voting rights, the student will not be voting on matters relating to budget, collective bargaining, personnel, boundaries, school reopenings and school closings. The student board member will primarily deal with direct student issues. I support partial voting rights for a student representative on the Board of Education.

Christine Vidmar Fulton

Christine Vidmar, a senior at Atholton, is president of the Howard County Association of Student Councils

Obvious benefits of student vote

I have the privilege and honor of working with the current student member of the Board of Education, Jeff Lasser, the student member of the State Board of Education, Josh Michael, the HCASC (Howard County Association of Student Councils) President Christine Vidmar, and many more of the dedicated and outstanding students of Howard County as their HCASC regional adviser. These students put in much time and energy serving Howard Co. and deserve a voice in its welfare.

What are the benefits and the negatives?

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