Ananya Tadikonda received the unanimous support of the Montgomery County Board of Education on Monday night with her first motion as student member – to adjourn the board's special session for her swearing in.
Tadikonda, a 17-year-old rising senior at Richard Montgomery High School, took the oath of office as the board's 41st student member in front of a standing-room only crowd that included family, friends and former teachers of Tadikonda and outgoing student member, Matt Post.
Tadikonda was elected in April to serve a one-year term on the board by middle and high school students of Montgomery County Public Schools. Nearly 84 percent of all eligible students cast ballots in the election, which Tadikonda won with 51 percent of the votes.
During Monday's swearing-in, board President Michael Durso spoke to Tadikonda about her new position as a role model for other students in the school system.
Tadikonda is only the second female to serve as student member of the board during his nine-year tenure.
"Do not minimize the importance of your presence in this role," said Durso, who decided not to seek re-election this year.
He also reminded Tadikonda that she's a full voting member of the board.
"You become an equal partner to this board in both our closed and open sessions, and I don't think you should ever shy away from being an equal to the other seven members," he said.
Tadikonda said she's up to the challenge.
"I feel that it's a huge responsibility to ensure that I represent young women and that I serve as a role model for them. Because I want to remind them that they can do this too," she told Bethesda Beat before the meeting. "It's something that they don't often feel and I want to make sure that I change that sentiment."
With the results of the primary election, after November, the board will become all women for the first time in county history.
Tadikonda told The Washington Post earlier this year that she hopes the all-female board will allow for a greater focus on issues such as affirmative consent and the high school dress code.
"The conversations that we have and the statement that we'll be making to the public – especially in this political climate – is really going to be great and I'm looking forward to that," Tadikonda said Monday night.
Tadikonda has also pledged to focus on leveling the playing field in MCPS. Creating a Chromebook rental program, for instance, could help expand access to technology, she’s said. Her other goals include diversifying literature and history lessons to be more reflective of the school system's student body.
Her election to student board member is the latest in a string of leadership positions for Tadikonda. She previously served as vice president of the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association and on the executive board of the Maryland Association of Student Councils. She’s also helped found MoCo EmpowerHER.
During her year on the school board, Tadikonda will be able to vote on school closings and reopenings, contracts with employee unions, attendance boundaries and the capital and operating budget for MCPS, according to a press release. The student member can’t vote on disciplinary actions related to employees, according to state law.
The role comes with a $5,000 college scholarship and an honors-level social studies credit, and counts toward the 75 service learning hours students must perform in order to graduate.
Jill Ortman-Fouse, an outgoing at-large board member, also offered words of encouragement to Tadikonda on Monday night.
"You're a strong voice. You know your mind. You're passionate. You know what needs to be done and you're not afraid to talk about it. You’re not afraid to step up. You're not afraid to make a difference," Ortman-Fouse said. "And like Matt, I think you'll be perfectly comfortable causing good trouble."
The full meeting is online at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/.