Watkins Mill SGA holds SMOB town hall

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Watkins Mill SGA held a zoom town hall with SMOB finalists Henry Kaye and Hana O’Looney.

Watkins Mill Student Government Association hosted a townhall on Thursday April 8, 2021 with SMOB candidates Hana O’Looney and Henry Kaye where they were asked about their standpoints on certain MCPS policies and issues.

Regarding county metrics for COVID-19 cases, Kaye wants to introduce methods of learning for students that keep everyone safe but improve the quality of education.  Kaye also wants to bring back opportunities that student’s have missed throughout the year like sports. “We need to continue to invest in the safety of our students and the security of our building in regards to personal protective equipment, ventilation and HVAC,” Kaye said.

O’Looney added, “I think if there’s any benefit of being the last school system to reopen, it’s that we’ve been able to track the progress of other states, other counties, other school systems. See what works, keep that. See what doesn’t work and reject that.” O’Looney wants to keep the COVID numbers at lower school levels, along with the rate of transmission low by intensely following public health guidelines. She also feels strongly about bringing back extracurriculars at all levels of education.

“At the end of the day I want to make sure the SMOB position does not belong to one student, it doesn’t belong to just me,” O’Looney said. “I want to be a SMOB who shares her seat, and brings other students into the conversation, both in public and private meetings.” O’Looney expressed that uplifting student voices and encouraging students to speak out is very important to her.

Kaye said, “I think the fact is– we have a severe lack of diverse interests and perspectives represented at a county level.” Kaye plans to fix this by engaging more students via targeted advertising, and reforming student leadership organizations at the county level.  “By having equal representation and by uplifting marginalized voices, we can make sure we are creating a more inclusive county,” Kaye added.

Both SMOB candidates want to continue to diversify staffing and making sure all communities feel included within schools. “When we’re talking about making our schools comfortable for students of color we need to make sure we have staff to support that,” O’Looney said.

“Within our classes, uplifting our student voices,” Kaye added. “By uplifting the voice of our students inside the classes, by encouraging them to speak out about their personal experiences, we can create a more welcoming community.”

Both candidates feel passionately about revamping counseling and giving students more outlets for their mental health. “I think initiatives that schools like Watkins Mill have done with student wellness centers are amazing and promoting the wellbeing of our students,” O’Looney said. “I’d love to see that expanded to every single school,” O’Looney added.

“I’d also love to see more school psychologist budgeted out in the school budget,” O’Looney added. “Specifically, school psychologists and counselors of color to support our students of color, and school psychologists and counselors who speak multiple languages.”

“The school board can emanate the fact that mental health is a fact of life. Mental health issues can occur in a lot of individuals. If we emanate and create a welcoming community, that’s how we can best support students,” Kaye said.

Kaye supports college/career readiness counselors, and counselors with other specialties like psychology or family planning. “We need to make sure counselors are reaching out and making those personal connections with our students.”

The removal of school resource officers is important to both candidates. They believe the money that goes into SRO’s should be allocated elsewhere. “I definitely think the $30 million spent on [SRO’s] need to be reinvested into our education. Specifically, in terms of school safety, I want to reinvest it into technological solutions that are actually proven to keep us safe, ” O’Looney said.

“Removing school resource officers is a step in the right direction to the school to prison pipeline,” Kaye added. Both believe the SRO program needs to be reformed and the county should look at helping students rather than pushing them in the wrong direction.

Students– make sure to cast your vote today.  The link with your personal password has been sent to your school email.

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