Youth Town Hall Meeting: A Conversation With County Officials (PHOTOS)
Bullying, the environment, teen suicide, school construction and funding: It was a night for students to speak up. The fifth Montgomery County Council Youth Town Hall Meeting was held on Oct. 15 at the County Council Building in Rockville.
The event was open to high and middle school students from public and private schools from around the county and local college students. Councilmembers heard students’ concerns about education, use of pesticides in neighborhoods, technology, school maintenance, among others.
Students could also send questions via Twitter and on Google Hangout.
Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice said that youth town hall meetings have become learning experiences for both the Councilmembers and the students.
Questions also varied from bullying, inappropriate behavior in schools, drinking and driving, to teen suicide, and how to make classes more interesting.
“When I was a kid, I was bullied too. … So I know how if feels like,” said Councilwoman Cherri Branson adding that, “it gets better,” and the bullies didn’t win. Councilmembers all agreed that bullying is “unacceptable.”
Rice told students, who asked questions about bullying, that he would personally follow up with the school.
“Bullying has no place in our schools,” Rice said.
Following the strict county officials anti-bullying position, a student asked about teen suicide and what officials can do to help students.
George Leventhal, Montgomery County Council Vice-President, said “If you hear a friend who is experiencing these thoughts, ask for help,” adding that students should talk to parents, school counselors, and never hesitate to seek help.
Susan Kenedy, producer and anchor at County Cable Montgomery, was the event’s moderator. Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro could not be at the meeting due to other commitments.
Another topic during the meeting was about school funding. Councilmembers said funds for school construction is their “number one priority.”
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen urged the students to “use those electronic devices” to communicate with the governor about how important school funding is to them.
Leventhal said that it was not surprising that a lot of questions focused on conditions in the schools, and added that “clearly” the county council funds schools, but do not “directly” control issues of the curriculum, the teaching quality or even “which schools are in the priority order for modernization.”
“We fund all of the schools, but the school system determines the priority order in which schools are repaired. … We work close with the school system, but a lot of these questions have to be directed to the school board,” Leventhal said.
According to the Montgomery County Public Schools, the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted a $2.28 billion Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools, which shows an increase of 2.3 percent over the last year’s budget.