The new student member of the Baltimore County school board, Roah Hassan, called during Tuesday night’s meeting for an end to division among the body’s members.
Hassan, a rising senior at Perry Hall High School, was sworn in earlier this month. She used her first board meeting to express her thoughts on the needs of a school system that has over 111,000 students, and what she thinks the board could be doing to meet them.
“We are a house divided,” Hassan, who is 16 years old, said Tuesday. “I have seen this board, and I have seen the tension and dysfunction that it entails. I have seen division in a space where we cannot afford to be divided.”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun before the meeting, Hassan said she hopes to see more collaboration among board members and less focus on statistics in terms of policy. Further, she cited school safety and student mental health as her top priorities.
“I think the most important thing that the entire board can take away from my term, from students being at the table, is that there needs to be a prioritization of the student voice or else you’re doomed to fail again and again,” Hassan said in an interview.
During the meeting, Hassan said BCPS students do not feel heard by the system’s leadership, and she seeks to change that. In her remarks, she said her fellow board members value politics over nonpartisanship and the lack of respect among the members is “disappointing” and hinders progress.
BCPS has been in the public eye recently as several Baltimore County Council members have spoken out about Superintendent Darryl L. Williams’ leadership.
Further, the school system was ordered to allow Chief Auditor Andrea Barr to continue working while a wrongful lawsuit brought forth by Barr is being examined.
The contention dates back to the 2020-21 school year when the board also received a letter from the Maryland Office of the Inspector General for Education in January 2021 stating there have been several complaints made about the decorum of some board members. The BCPS community was also divided regarding the renovations for Towson and Dulaney high schools.
Additionally, Hassan joins the school board after an attempt to get Baltimore County and Baltimore City’s student board members full voting rights passed through the state legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan in May.
Currently, the student member of BCPS can vote on all matters except ones involving the budget and personnel. Nevertheless, Hassan said she still plans to advocate for her fellow students in those areas.
The Evening Sun
Get your evening news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
Last year, several student members of the various Maryland school boards rallied together to advocate for full voting rights across the board.
While she does have limitations, Baltimore County is one of the few localities in the state that provide its student board member with voting rights of any kind. Unlike Hassan, Anne Arundel County’s member has full voting rights.
BCPS board member Makeda Scott, District 4, told The Baltimore Watchdog in November that she supported the expansion of student voting rights.
“I think [students] have a good handle on how their schools should be run,” Scott said at the time.
In addition to Hassan, the board also welcomed another member this month with the swearing in of Felicia Stolusky in District 2. Stolusky replaced Cheryl Pasteur, who resigned to run for the House of Delegates.
Hassan told The Sun that stepping into her new role inspired her to speak out about her feelings regarding the board. While she said she feels that she’s taken less seriously than her adult counterparts, she plans to make her voice heard.
“I look forward to introducing bold resolutions and ensuring that my voice is not the only student voice at the table this year,” Hassan said Tuesday. “My term will mark necessary change as I promise BCPS one thing: I will bring fire, and I will bring passion to the board as I unequivocally fight for the students of Baltimore County Public Schools.”