Navigating his second term as Montgomery County’s elected Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB), BCC senior Eric Guerci faces the challenge of representing the county’s massive student population despite his marked unfavorability at this school.
In the 2016 SMOB election, Guerci prevailed over his opponent, current RM junior Alex Abrosimov, by a relatively close eight-point margin — a demonstration of progress in his public ethos when compared to his four-point win over his 2015 competitor. At this school, however, Guerci lost his de facto electoral mandate by a substantially wider margin; in the 2015 election he lost by close to 50 percent, and this year he lost by around 20 percent.
After being shocked by Guerci’s first victory, students took to blaming the results on uninformed voters casting their ballots based on Guerci’s physical appearance.
“I think it’s entirely possible,” senior AJ Stanislaus said. “The candidates for SMOB are usually so similar on policy that there’s rarely any substantive reason to pick one, so I can easily see appearance being a factor in how students vote.”
Students tended to attribute his election in 2016 to an overwhelming desire to stick with the status quo rather than focusing on his looks again. Guerci is simply pleased that he lost by a narrower margin this year. “I think [the margin] showed that the student body gained confidence in my ability to represent them,” Guerci said.
Students here also do not get the sense that Guerci plays a particularly prominent role, and some, despite Guerci’s implementation of media outreach strategies like the “SMOB Minute,” do not pay much attention to the SMOB’s activities or duties. “I don’t really think about [Guerci], and I think that’s probably true for most of the school,” Stanislaus said. “I think a lot of kids feel like the SMOB has been a vaguely irrelevant position for as long as anyone can remember.”
Guerci’s position indeed does not place him in direct executive power — he collaborates with a board comprised of himself and seven adult members. However, he and his collaborators recently passed a bill in Annapolis that expanded the SMOB’s capabilities to allow him to vote on issues like budgeting, collective bargaining and school closures.
“We do things at a very high level… our main priority is to hire and oversee a superintendent, which this last year was Mr. Jack Smith,” Guerci said. “That’s sort of my role on the board, but I consider it a very binary role, wherein I serve on the board but also as the chief student leader of Montgomery County. Many people think of the SMOB as an executive when I actually work on an eight-person board, but I also have a singular role where I meet with students, set up outlets for communication and represent their interests.”
In addition to enhancing communication and outreach to students, one of the policies championed by Guerci’s leadership was the decision to abolish final exams.
While students appreciated the opportunity to potentially earn a higher semester grade, concerns arose regarding grade inflation and inefficiency. “I don’t like [Guerci] because he was all, like, ‘I’m getting rid of exams,’ and now we have twice as many,” sophomore Jenny Yarmovsky said.
Guerci understands the reasoning behind such criticism, but he hopes that this experimental grading program will yield positive results. “It’s certainly a concern that I’ve continued to hear,” Guerci said.
“Every system is a trade-off. I’ve been working with staff to make sure we’re monitoring grades and alignments, because grades are supposed to be a reflection of what students are learning. And throughout the grading conversation, we talked to higher education partners and they made it clear that the metric we use to grade is irrelevant to them in comparison to course rigor.”
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that Guerci has a difficult job that requires discretion, patience and excellent interpersonal skills.
Over the phone, his Marco Rubio-esque charisma communicates his passion for his position and his dutiful sense of civic engagement.
“Whether or not students voted for me, I need to hear all of their voices,” Guerci said.
“When they hear what I’ve done and how I’ve advocated for them, many students are very appreciative. The unfortunate reality is that there aren’t enough days in the year to interact with each of the tens of thousands of students in the county, but my door is always open. Continue to reach out — I’m always willing to listen.”
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