By a one-vote margin, 89 to 88, David Naimon was elected last week as the first student representative on the Montgomery County School Board. Naimon, 17, a junior at Northwood High School, Silver Spring, will not have a vote, but will be entitled to sit in and participate in virtually all board meetings, and he may attend normally closed executive session meetings if invited by the other board members, officials said.
"It's only fair" that a student sits on the school board, Naimon said after his thin margin of victory: "Other groups have an impact on Board of Education members, why shouldn't students. A student on the board will help the board members who don't get out to the schools and don't see the impact of their decisions."
Naimon said his term will officially begin July 1, but officials said the board will informally invite him to participate in their remaining sessions this year.
The election of a non-voting student representative to the board was approved several years ago after previous attempts to have two voting student representatives failed, according to Mike Michaelson, a student affairs specialist with the school system. Naimon was elected by votes of delegates from the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Counoils, Michaelson said.
The election was held last week at a convention at Walter Johnson High School. The runner-up, John Taylor, a junior and student government president at Woodward High School, will become the alternate student representative, Michaelson said.
"I've been watching the board as much as any student in the county. I've been watching it since the eighth grade," Naimon said.
He recalled that he had helped lobby the bill that created the post he had just won.
"We were sitting in Sen. Howard Denis' office, and he said we had to be careful about how we chose the first board member," he said. Denis (R-Montgomery County) had been one of the bill's supporters. "I never thought it would be me," Naimon said.
When Naimon was in the eighth grade, three years ago, the school board created its Students Rights and Responsibilities policy. When the official student representative to a conference on the subject "was unable to get a ride to the board meeting. I became one of five students to present the student position to the board," he said. "It was a case of being in the right place at the right time."
In the ninth grade he was president of the Montgomery County Junior Council, an organization of students from 32 county junior highs. Today his brother, Jeffery Naimon, a student at Sligo Junior High School, is president of the group, he said.
Each of the seven candidates for the position on the board was required to reply in writing to three questions which were then judged by the voting delegates to the regional conference.
In answer to the first question, Naimon said that the most important issue facing the school system was student grading. His position is that grades should be issued for academic achievement only, and should not be a composite score based on both intellectual accomplishment and social ability within the class.
"A student who earns an A in class but who is also disruptive in class should receive an A, and not be downgraded for his behavior," he said. "Social conduct should be in another category. Grades vary a lot from teacher to teacher. Grades are not really very scientific. But that's the kind of thing we're letting teachers get away with" (combining social conduct perceptions with academic achievement), he said.
"A lot of students are fed up with the grading policies," Naimon continued. "A grade is supposed to reflect performance of objectives, which (students) are supposed to be told of at the beginning of the year. Yet I haven't found one student who's been told what his performance objectives are."
For his answer to the second question, Naimon said the area of board policy which could best be improved was to open up a wider range of academic and non-academic experiences, courses and intellectual challenges to student.
For his third question, Naimon said the board might consider six alternatives as ways of cutting $4 million from this year's school budget, which is now being debated before the Montgomery County Council.
The biggest chunk of money - $2.25 million - could be saved by closing at 5 p.m. three days a week all elementary schools which now stay open for extra-curricular activities. Naimon said after his election that he had developed this figure by analyzing similar figures developed by Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo.
One million dollars could be saved by centralizing all county maintenance services under one office; $250,000 could be saved by cutting out the salaries of school lunch room aides; $200,000 could be gained by raising adult education tuition services; $200,000 could be saved by using long-term substitute teachers where appropriate rather than hiring a permanent teacher whenever a vacancy occurred, and $167,000 could be saved by eliminating the junior and senior high school aides whose main function is to telephone home each day, checking on attendance and possible truancy of students, he said.
Naimon, who is a student intern in the office of Rep. James Scheurer (D-N.Y.), next year will study English, advanced placement in U.S. history, and take a gym class. He declined to reveal his own grades except to say that they are "good. But grades don't mean much anyway," he said.
The candidates in the race won by Naimon were Cheryl Bauter of Magruder, Christopher Carr of Peary, Christopher Gehring of Poolesville, Ann Martin of Paint Branch, Thomas Ritter of Sherwood and John Taylor of Woodward. There were 225 delegates from 53 schools voting in the election, Michaelson said. The county school system has 112,000 students.
Other area school boards which have student members include Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Carroll and Baltimore City in Maryland, and Fairfax County in Virginia, Michaelson said.