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The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

SMOB nominees finalized

SMOB+candidates+were+finalized+on+Feb.+14+as+Sam+Ross%2C+a+junior+at+Montgomery+Blair%2C+and+Praneel+Suvarna%2C+a+junior+at+Clarksburg.+SMOB+elections+will+take+place+on+Apr.+17.+
Photo courtesy MCPS
SMOB candidates were finalized on Feb. 14 as Sam Ross, a junior at Montgomery Blair, and Praneel Suvarna, a junior at Clarksburg. SMOB elections will take place on Apr. 17.

The Student Member of the Board (SMOB) holds the coveted position of being a voting member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Each year, all middle and high schools in MCPS vote for their voice on the Board. Eight nominees were narrowed down to two finalists at the nominating convention on Feb. 14 at Watkins Mill. The two candidates for SMOB are Samantha Ross, a junior at Montgomery Blair, and Praneel Suvarna, a junior at Clarksburg.

These two finalists both have been a part of county advocacy prior to the election, as Ross holds the current SMOB Advisory Council’s Chief of Staff position, and Suvarna is the Montgomery County Regional (MCR) Student Government Association vice president.

Both Ross and Suvarna have aspirations to hear students across the county and their voices. Ross promises to visit every middle and high school throughout her term if she is elected, to allow every student to be able to speak with her and share their concerns. “I will continue the tradition of an excellent SMOB advisory council, social media, and other forms like the SMOB minute, but I believe it is most important to be in the schools so all students have a chance to be heard, regardless of if they have social media, speak English or can go to a meeting 30 minutes away,” Ross said.

Suvarna has a similar plan, wanting to ensure that students have pride in their country and the work that is being done. With Suvarna’s past work in advocacy with the Student Advisory Mental Health Board as well as MoCo for Change, he wants to build off of this previous work, while connecting with students on what matters to them. “I think the main objective of my campaign is to connect with the students. I’ve been so fortunate to have been a part of so many different experiences, both in and out of school, that it’s always the highlight of my day to be able to talk to a student about something they’re passionate about. Representation is so important to me and I want to be able to show every student in the county that they matter,” Suvarna said.

As for during the SMOB’s term, each candidate has a different specific topic that they believe deserves action. Ross has previous experience working with safety in schools, as a member of the MCPS Well-Being School Safety and Districtwide Wellness Committee and being a part of the Maryland Center for School Safety Focus Group. Working on the SMOB advisory council, Ross hopes to strengthen much of the work that has been done throughout the current SMOB Sami Saeed’s campaign. “I want to continue Sami’s school safety resolution from October, establish a written commitment that MCPS supports middle school extracurriculars, and to vote against any and all changes which negatively impact students,” Ross said.

On the issue of safety, Suvarna has a more specific interest. Along with sustainability in the county, as well as connecting with newcomer students, Suvarna hopes to tackle the drug epidemic, getting diverse perspectives with representation from all clusters within his campaign team, and a plan of action for this issue. “The number one issue that needs to be addressed is the drug and opioid crisis within our schools. This is not an issue that has gone away over the past year and I think a critical step that we need to take is to pass a resolution that calls for MCPS staff and security to be equipped with Narcan, alongside placing safety buttons in bathrooms. Past this, making sure we’re prioritizing students by continuing off the work of previous SMOBs by providing students with better school lunches and ensuring that menstrual product dispensers are properly equipped (things that Sami Saeed and Hana O’Looney fought for),” Suvarna said.

If elected into office, Ross has hope for the future, with acknowledgment of advocating for students. “My main goal is to bridge the gap between students and MCPS leadership, even the SMOB election itself is often called a sham, so I want to be able to 1) hear students, 2) deliver change for students and 3) ensure everyone is aware of how changes are generally made in MCPS and how students can advocate for themselves,” Ross said.

Like Ross, student advocacy is of the utmost importance if elected as SMOB, hoping to give equality throughout the county. “In terms of specific plans, I’ll give you the two points that I usually tell everyone, which is student equity, through the use of a club specialist to increase access to club offerings at schools across the county and also working to expand on the work our restorative justice program is doing by fully funding it within the budget and making sure resources are accessible to students,” Suvarna said.

SMOB elections are set to take place on Apr. 17, with the polls open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. The voting will be held online and is open to all middle and high school students in the county.

For more information, Ross can be reached via email (linktr.ee/samforsmob) or Instagram messaging (sam.for.smob), and Suvarna can be found on social media platforms Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat @praneel4smob.

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Ellie Mollica, Online Editor-in-Chief
Senior Ellie Mollica is the online editor-in-chief in her third year on the Common Sense staff. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family and cheering on the Wootton cheer team. You can also find her on Instagram @elliemollicaa.
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