Students voice concerns at county meeting


WJ junior SMOB candidate Drew Skilton presents himself in front of the panel of representatives for the MCPS Board of Education. He spoke alongside WJ representative James Bradley in an effort to change the current regulations surrounding counselor relationships with the students and their perspective schools. Photo by Jack Linde.

Yael Hanadari-Levy, Editor-in-Chief

The MCPS Board of Education recently released its proposed budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. On January 10 and 16, after being rescheduled due to snow days, the Board held two meetings that were open to the public in order to hear testimony and public opinion on the budget proposal. The proposed budget includes an overall increase of $67,304,349, including the addition of more full-time employees to manage the expected increase in enrollment.

At the January 10 meeting, a representative of the Walter Johnson school cluster, James Bradley, testified before the Board on behalf of Walter Johnson. Bradley took the opportunity to voice opposition to a proposal by the county executive to cut $25 million from the public school system. He also emphasized the need for increased staff and resources that Walter Johnson specifically has, due to the extreme student body growth and overcrowding present in the cluster.

“We ask the board to ensure that schools like ours, facing substantial enrollment pressures, are staffed to meet this challenge,” Bradley said in his testimony.

Among the testimonies given at the public meetings were students from Montgomery County public schools who spoke up to voice their opinion on the proposed changes. From Walter Johnson High School, junior Drew Skilton spoke to the Board at the January 16 meeting, focusing on the need for improved and increased school counseling services to be funded in the upcoming budget.

“Although this issue now has become a higher priority for the Board, the budget does not go far enough,” Skilton said. “The number of counselors and psychologists in the MCPS system is just not keeping up with student body growth.”

Bradley also brought up the importance of counseling improvements, asking the Board to provide mental health resources and support for students, both in WJ and all across the county.

“Every school needs more mental health resources. Every school needs psychologists and social workers, all across the county. Our kids need help, and the consequences of not providing it are devastating,” Bradley said to the Board.

The opportunity to speak at public hearings for the Board of Education provides MCPS students with a chance to influence decisions on the services they receive at school. This allows students to feel as if their voices are being heard about their own lives.

“With one exception, the Student Member of the Board, these Board members don’t sit in our seats, see what we see and encounter the issues we face every day as MCPS students. The students who testify bring a first person point of view to these hearings. It is important that the Board, Dr. Smith and his staff hear from the students,” Skilton said.

Discussion and work on the proposal will continue through the end of January, and the Board plans to take action on the budget on February 13.