Upcounty Community Voices Student Concerns


Charlotte Sanford

CHS hosted, from left to right, Gabe Albornoz, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice, and Shebra Evans, at the Youth Town Hall.

Kara Peeler and Sagun Shrestha

In an opportunity to voice student opinions, CHS hosted a Youth Town Hall meeting where MoCo Council leaders came to answer questions and concerns over a period of an hour and fifteen minutes. Students who attended received SSL hours.  

CHS had the honor of hosting council members Gabe Albornoz, Sidney Katz, Craig Rice, and council President Nancy Navarro, as well as Board of Education president Shebra Evans. Many upcounty residents were invited to join in the event.

“I think it’s fabulous that we get to host basically all of the upcounty schools and have our students be the centerpiece to talk to the county council and board of education,” said principal Edward Owusu. “I really want the county council, the local government, and MCPS to recognize that Clarksburg is a large school with a lot going on.” 

The discussion was largely student-led, with audience members bringing up the topics they felt needed to be addressed. The first question led to a discussion about equal opportunity throughout the county.

“For those people who are challenged, whether it is socioeconomically, whether it’s that you have challenges in your life from a mental health standpoint, we owe it to students to make sure that we’re eliminating those barriers so that you can achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve,” said Rice.

Due to recent increases in gun violence and attacks in schools, a CHS student asked about school safety in a timeline of dangerous events.  

“Part of what we’re trying to do is strike that balance because we want to make sure that you are able to come to school to learn and striking the balance of strengthening our security measures is giving you also the freedom to be able to come in and out of school,” said Navarro. “It’s really delicate, but we understand how front and center this issue is.”

A CHS student asked about how MCPS can increase diversity so that students can relate to the curriculum, thereby improving their education. The MCPS council expressed a passion for such reform. 

“We need to make sure that that curriculum is culturally proficient, that it reflects the student population that we have in our school system and that it responds to that,” said Navarro. “It is so important for our students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. If you’re studying something that reflects your history… you will be more engaged.”

The Youth Town Hall event attracted students and adults from all across the county.

After a middle school student whose assigned home school changed from CHS to Seneca Valley, the council members addressed the recently released boundary study. They assured the community that the boundaries were carefully constructed. 

“Clarksburg was one of the schools that was provided the most relief,” said Evans. “However, all of our schools are great and you will receive a quality education. We made certain while we were doing this analysis that we looked at our schools and where they were overutilized. We are taking geographic location and proximity into account.” 

Unfortunately, reform goals and large initiatives take lots of resources that the Montgomery County Council doesn’t necessarily have. Despite how Montgomery County’s operating budget is $5.8 billion, 46.5% of which is allocated to public schools, financial issues arise.

“Funding is always a concern,” said Navarro. 

Similarly, not all concerns students mentioned fall under the direct oversight of the council. Councilmen deflected some issues to other groups, be it various local activist groups, the Board of Education, SMOB Nathan Tinbite, testifying to the council, or even via hashtags such as #mocoyouth and #yourvotematters. 

The town hall provided an outlet to share ideas and concerns, uniting the community.

“I like just to hear a lot of diversity, especially from the council members. I feel like hearing different people’s opinions, different views, is refreshing,” said junior Eastwood Yeboah

The Youth Town Hall is seen as an opportunity for students to practice political activism, voicing their opinions to people in positions of power. No matter their age, ranging from elementary schoolers to high school seniors, each council member responded to as many questions as time allowed. 

“You all have more power than you give yourselves credit for and I want you to walk away tonight understanding that each of you and your voice is valued and should be heard,” said Rice.

Do you have concerns about Montgomery County policy? Check out  #mocoyouth and #yourvoicematters to voice your opinions to the Montgomery County Council.