David Chang's senior year at Churchill High School in Potomac sounds as if it will be terribly hectic. He couldn't be happier.
In balloting that drew nearly 28,000 student voters, the 17-year-old honors student last week was elected to a one-year term on the Montgomery County Board of Education. In the days since his victory, Chang has begun catching up on his studies and figuring out which of next year's classes he will "have to drop" to "do my best at representing the students."
Will he stay on swim team? Probably. Will he continue with the time-consuming advanced math and science classes in which he excels? He doesn't know.
"I have some time to decide, but I just know being on the board is a big responsibility and a hard job," Chang said. "I've just got to make sure I have time."
With Chang's election to the school board, he joins seven adult members in guiding a system of 102,000 students through a critical period. The racial and ethnic makeup of the schools is becoming more diverse, and budget constraints are becoming clear in a county where a taxpayers' rebellion prompted policy-makers to hold the line on spending. And in Montgomery County, the student member of the school board holds unusual power.
Last year, Alison Serino became the first voting student member of the Montgomery school board. Like Serino, Chang will not be able to vote on some of the more controversial matters before the board such as the budget, school closings, boundary changes, personnel matters and union contracts.
Still, Chang said he looks forward to using his post to influence school policy -- hoping, for example, to usher in expanded peer counseling programs for students. He especially wants to discuss what he considers "growing racial tension. It's not superficial, but it's right under the surface."
He also supports "more effective" teacher evaluations, new programs to "help enhance teachers' creativity" in dealing with the same material year after year, and perhaps changing how students receive their class ranks. He said the level of competition is higher at some schools than at others, in some instances making it more difficult to achieve a top class rank and gain admission to top colleges.
Chang won the May 22 election handily with 62.5 percent of the vote, defeating Jimmy Hung of Quince Orchard High School. Chang assumes the post July 1. Students in grades 7 through 12 can vote, and 64 percent of those who were eligible cast ballots.
Chang said his election to the board comes as "a next step" in his leadership roles in student government, debate and the business club he founded at school. For fun, he is an avid basketball fan, displaying reverential admiration for Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
But fun is hard to fit in. On weekdays during the campaign, he awoke at 5:30 a.m. to complete his homework. On weekends, he's out of bed by 7 a.m.
"With all the stuff I'll have to read for the board next year," Chang said, "it's good I don't mind getting up early."