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Student School Board member wants real vote

July 25, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As a vote it means nothing, but when Brian Williamson raises his hand on an issue the Washington County Board of Education will note it.

Student members on the county's School Board do not have a formal vote, but Williamson asked in his first business meeting Tuesday night that the School Board acknowledge his opinion on voted items even if it doesn't count toward the tally.

Board members agreed.

School Board President Bernadette M. Wagner counted the members' votes on each issue before checking to see if Williamson gave his approval.

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The North Hagerstown High School student said he'd like to see student School Board members get partial voting rights before he graduates in 2005. He said he sees his silent vote as a way to get his lobbying foot in the door.

Williamson, 16, said only two school boards in the country give full voting rights to student members. Maryland's Anne Arundel County School Board is one of them and a few other state school boards grant partial voting rights to student members, he said.

"Education is about the students. They should have a say in what's going on," he said.

Penchant for politics


Williamson is North High's Student Government Association parliamentarian and the Maryland Association of Student Councils' chief of staff.

He lost his first student council representative race as a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School, but he later went on to capture the student council presidency the following year. When he was in the eighth grade, he was second vice president on the state middle school student council.

Williamson said social studies classes are among his favorite courses. The honor roll student said he hopes to study political science and education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville before he decides whether to tackle law school.

He said he will listen for issues that directly affect students, such as the systemwide dress code that the School Board unanimously approved Tuesday night. Although its rules do not affect Williamson's dress he said he knows many students are concerned about it. He approved the code.

As a lobbyist for the Maryland Association for Student Councils, Williamson said he's pushed for the state student board member to have a full vote and for state funding to be distributed to public schools and not to private schools, which he said can raise their own funds.

Some parts of The federal No Child Left Behind act concern him. Williamson said he feels teachers should not be considered "highly qualified" based on the subjects listed on their teaching certificates.

"The intent of it is good - to close the achievement gap and make schools accountable, but they went about the wrong way of doing it," he said.

Williamson said the prospect of making the passing of High School Assessments a graduation requirement is "a little extreme to me."

A varsity soccer goalie, he said raising the athletic fee is not as extreme because it is maintaining the freshman basketball programs, but he believes there should be a ceiling set.

He is the son of John and Teri Williamson of Hagerstown.

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