Only three of 20 student candidates for a single Prince George's County school board position have ever attended a school board meeting - but that apparently has not dampened their fervor to get elected.
The prospect of holding that celebrated political post has prompted students to assemble campaign armies, plan lobbying efforts and schedule visits to other schools.
In this race - the deadline for candidate sign-ups was last week - "some students have already turned their homes into campaign headquarters," says Donald Murphy, director of the Office of Student Concerns.
Like their elders in Prince George's County, candidates are developing political strategies to beat their opponents.
One of these students - Joseph C. Kennedy, a junior at Central Senior High School in Seat Pleasant - used the first meeting of student candidates this week to "psych-out" his opponents.
In that preliminary "informational" meeting - which included both student candidates and school officials - the candidate brought along a "campaign manager," "visual aids expert," "chief secretary," and a "campaign volunteer."
"I brought my staff along so they would know just as much as I do," said Kennedy, who later admitted, "I thought it would look good for other people (candidates) to see I had support."
Kennedy - who says he wants some day to become President of the United States, said he signed up 50 campaign volunteers shortly after finding out that a school board seat was going to become available to students.
The school board position - the political prize in this student election - was made available to students as the result of a Maryland General Assmebly law enacted this past legislative session.
The law permits a non-paid, non-voting student to sit on the school board with all school board priviledges including the opportunity to propose legislation and debate topics. However, the student will not be allowed to attend executive sessions and will not be able to participate in union negotiations.
Prince George's, Fairfax and Anne Arunde counties are the only jurisdictions in the Washington metropolitan area where students sit on school boards. Anne Arundel is the only jurisdiction where a student has full school board member priviledges including a vote.
In Prince George's County, the school board race is "up for grabs," according to the director of student concerns. He said the Regional Student Government Assn., which will elect the student board member on June 10, will lose many of its seniors just before the election. This turnover, he said, will mean that "name recognition" will be reduced as a factor in the voting.
"Campaign speeches and appearance are what count," says candidate Robert Todd Johnson, a junior at Largo Senior High School, who wore a suit and tie at the first meeting of candidates.
Johnson offered a reporter a mimegraphed sheet of paper that outlined his qualifications and listed his goals. He told the reporter, "I've got a million of these."
Several of the candidates not only indicated that they were going to other schools in their campaign, but had contacted delegates to the RSGA by telephone.
The reason for running for the school board position, according to students, goes beyond adding a line to their college application forms.
Several of the students, including Joni J. Frostbutter, a junior at Bowie Senior High School and Christine Ann Dant, a junior at Fairmont Heights Senior High School, said they were running for the school board slot "to act as sort of an ambassador for students to the school board."