Credit: via MCPS

The next student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education will come from either Walt Whitman High or Albert Einstein High.

During a nominating convention this week, representatives from every MCPS middle and high school cut the field of candidates from 16 to two. Students will vote in an election on April 20.

The finalists are Arvin Kim, a junior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, and Baba Cisse, a junior at Albert Einstein High School.

The winner will be the 45th student member of the school board and succeed Richard Montgomery senior Hana O’Looney.

O’Looney was preceded by another Richard Montgomery student, Nick Asante.

The student board member in 2019-20 was Nate Tinbite, a John F. Kennedy High School student. Before him, another Richard Montgomery High School student, Ananya Tadikonda, held the position.

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The last time a student from Whitman was elected to the school board was in 1996, when Rachel Prager was elected, according to MCPS records.

Einstein has not had a student elected to the board since 1993, when Carrie Baker was elected.

Cisse is the vice president of his class at Einstein. His candidate website says his priorities would be to address COVID-19 safety, promoting “eco-friendly schools,” closing the achievement gap and addressing the academic impacts of virtual classes during the pandemic.

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“Baba understands what it is like for most students to have buildings that are falling apart, the lack of diversity within our teachers and staff, lack of resources to help us perform better in our academics, and so much more that needs to be addressed,” his website says. “We need a Student Member of the Board of Education that represents all of us that face real problems, even in underrepresented areas, so every single one of us can be represented as a whole.”

MCPS Director of Student Leadership and Extracurricular Activities Shella Cherry wrote in an email on Friday that Cisse is a member of the SMOB Advisory Council and recently joined MoCo Pride Youth’s outreach team. He is a member of Einstein’s varsity track and cross country teams, Cherry wrote.

Kim is a member of the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association.

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His campaign website says he has a “180+ point plan for MCPS” that touches on topics such as improving school safety, mental health resources, equity, curriculum and student participation in decision making.

“This is a movement to uplift, empower, and fight for the student voice,” his website says.

Cherry wrote that Kim is the chief of staff for the countywide student government association and was formerly vice president of the Montgomery County Junior Council Student Government Association.

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Kim was a founding member of MoCo Pride Youth and previously was involved in the Maryland Association of Student Councils, Asian American Progressive Student Union and MoCo Students for Change.

Cisse and Kim will continue campaigning until April. On April 20, all middle and high school students will be eligible to vote in the countywide election. Results are expected to be announced that evening. The winner will be sworn in on July 1 and serve a one-year term.

Student members of the Montgomery County school board have full voting rights, except on negative personnel actions. They receive a $5,000 college scholarship, student service learning hours and one honors level social studies credit.

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Students who will be juniors or seniors during their tenure can apply for the position.

The other candidates were:
• Heera Anand, junior, Poolesville High
• Jaiden Burney, junior, Richard Montgomery
• Max Choi, junior, Thomas S. Wootton High
• Ava Cook, junior, Northwest High
• Shubhang Eruventi, junior, Richard Montgomery
• Christina Garcia De Leon, junior, Clarksburg High
• Liam Kirby, junior, Walter Johnson High
• Maahe Kunvar, junior, Northwest High
• Eleanor Pugh, junior, Walt Whitman
• Norma Romero-Reyes, junior, Montgomery Blair High
• Sarah Seam, junior, Col. Zadok Magruder High
• Muhammad Wali, junior, James Hubert Blake High
• Yehonatan Tapiro, junior, Northwood High
• Todd Zhou, Winston Churchill High

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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