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Election of student member of the Howard County Board of Education to be held online in June

Long Reach junior Joshua Drasin, left, and Howard junior Zach Koung are running for the Howard County student member of the Board of Education position. The election will be administered online on June 2 and 3.
Long Reach junior Joshua Drasin, left, and Howard junior Zach Koung are running for the Howard County student member of the Board of Education position. The election will be administered online on June 2 and 3. (Photo courtesy of the Howard County Public School System)

Two Howard County high school juniors are campaigning to be elected as the student member of the Board of Education in an online vote set for June 2 and 3.

Long Reach High School junior Joshua Drasin and Howard High School junior Zach Koung are vying for the student member position, and the election will be held on Canvas — an online portal for school system students — due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The winner will serve a one-year term during the 2020-21 school year.

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The more than 26,000 Howard County students in grades six through 11 are eligible to vote and will receive an announcement via Canvas to explain the process. Students will also be able to watch a video of each candidate prior to voting. The election was originally scheduled to take place in middle and high schools across the county on April 22 and was postponed when schools closed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The student member of the board is the representative for the nearly 59,000 students in the county, as the intermediary between the student body and the board. The student is a voting member on all issues except redistricting, budget, personnel and other restricted measures.

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Allison Alston, a Reservoir senior who is the current student member of the board, said it’s important for students to take the election seriously.

“It’s an important position because all of the other voting members of the Board of Education are adults who don’t experience their decisions firsthand. They don’t have that experience that students currently have day to day of being in the building and what students need,” Alston said.

“It’s also important for students to vote because voting is something that young people have failed at recently, and this is a good way to get in the practice of it and recognize the importance of their voice.”

The first student member of the board was Marcy Leonard, elected in 1988 while a student at Atholton High School. Leonard is now principal at Wilde Lake High School.

Cindy Drummond, the adviser for the Howard County Association of Student Councils, which focuses on leadership in the schools, said the student member of the board is important for the school community.

“We are looking to hopefully inspire and encourage students to see themselves as voters,” Drummond said.

Drasin and Koung were chosen out of a pool of 11 students at the county’s student council convention on Feb. 18. The convention gathered 140 student delegates from the school system’s middle and high schools to vote for the final two student candidates.

The two students began their campaigns in early March before the coronavirus closed schools. They both suspended their campaigns March 13 and restarted them digitally May 4. The candidates are using social media and a Canvas page to pitch their platforms.

On Koung’s online materials, he explains he decided to run for the position after he studied the weaknesses of the U.S. education system for a research project. He said he’s passionate about financial literacy and student mental health.

Drasin, meanwhile, is a member on Long Reach’s Student Government Association executive board and has served on two school system policy committees. He said mental health awareness and student opportunity are among topics he cares about.

Alston will serve on the board through the summer before heading to study at the University of Virginia. Her advice for her replacement is to “relax.”

“You can get tense thinking about being in an adult world and having a lot of pressure to represent close to 60,000 students,” Alston said. “It’s all about having a learning experience at the end of the day. Make the most of it, and stay true to yourself.”

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