By Eileen Luo and Joy Jiang
The Student Member of the Board (SMOB) is a voting member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. This year, Richard Montgomery High School junior Henry Kaye, has been selected as one of the two finalists for SMOB.
Reason For Running
As an active member of his community, small business owner, and someone who works a part-time job, Kaye understands that students who have many responsibilities outside of school can struggle to get their voices heard.
“I wanted to run for SMOB because I think that there are great disparities in this county, and I think those disparities stem from the fact that the barrier to entry in student government and student advocacy is extremely high,” said Kaye. “If you play a sport, if you take challenging courses, if you play an instrument, it’s fundamentally difficult to become involved.”
Kaye’s campaign has revolved around lowering the barrier to entry in advocacy, and in doing so, incorporating a more diverse set of student voices in the countywide policy-making process.
Disparities in Online Learning
Kaye’s main concern as SMOB will be to address the disparities in learning that have surfaced as a result of online learning.
“If you have internet connectivity issues, if you don’t speak English, if there’s a lot going on at your house, it’s very difficult to get that quality education in an online setting,” he said.
Kaye hopes to facilitate a smooth and safe transition back to in-person learning, so the students who need help can get it from teachers. He also emphasizes a new set of ideas to return to school.
“We know that [COVID-19] is a highly transmissible disease. We know that being indoors greatly increases your chance of contracting [it],” Kaye said. Instead of returning to school in a conventional manner, he proposes that MCPS utilize outdoor classrooms, to decrease the risk of being infected with it.
He also believes that certain classes, instead of grades, should be prioritized for the return to in-person learning.
“There are a lot of classes that could continue indefinitely in the online setting,” Kaye said. “The fact is that you may be able to continue an English class, but it is really difficult to continue that Chemistry class.”
By taking this approach, Kaye hopes to make sure that the students who truly need to be in buildings can be there, and that they can learn in an effective, socially distanced manner.
Besides online learning improvement, one of Kaye’s main focuses as SMOB will be to increase the efficiency of the MCPS budget.
“We need to make sure that we’re using money effectively now and in the long term so that we can reduce disparities,” he said. He believes that, with an efficiently managed budget, many other goals can come to fruition.
Such goals will include “improv[ing] student diets, reduc[ing drug] addiction [and diversifying] the curriculum”. He also hopes to improve infrastructure, counseling, and college and career readiness programs.
Tied into the issue of budget efficiency is Kaye’s idea of a principal investment. By improving students’ nutrition, he hopes to improve the quality of learning for all students.
“In the state, we have this system of funding -- and this is really unfortunate -- schools that perform better tend to receive more funding,” he said. “[So] if we, as a county, make a principal investment [into students’ nutrition], students’ learning will increase. They’ll retain more information. They’ll score better on tests, which subsequently will create a positive feedback loop of funding.”
Besides the lack of nutrition in school meals, Kaye also believes that the current school meal system is damaging to the environment, because heavily processed foods may be brought in from all across the country. To this end, he proposes that MCPS partner with farms in Montgomery County to deliver food to schools.
As a SMOB candidate, Henry Kaye hopes to bring more diversity into student government, address disparities in online learning, and improve the MCPS budget efficiency, primarily through principal investments, in order to realize other goals.
As a part of his initiative to reach out to a more diverse set of student representatives, Kaye has asked us to share the information about his Student Advisory Team.
The Advisory Team is a group of students that will bring news of issues at their school to Kaye’s campaign. The link to apply is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdISvK3PbQyF5qTusz_S0IzbUHgZtk5NWJTJihq6J22uE79dw/viewform
To learn more about his campaign: https://www.henrysmob.com/
This article was provided by the Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.