April 6th, 2012
02:22 PM ET

Young politicos run for school board seats in Maryland

by Athena Jones and Stacey Samuel, CNN

Upper Marlboro, MD (CNN) - Edward Burroughs is only 19 years old, but he isn't new to the political scene. He's held elected office for more than a year.

Burroughs won his seat on the Prince George's County, MD school board back in 2010, at just 17. By the time his term began, he was old enough to serve.

Now the college sophomore is hoping voters will give him a chance to do so again. The tall, lanky teen, who wears his hair in twists, donned khakis, a coat and a backpack to spend primary day greeting voters and handing out literature outside the polls. By that night, he had won his district's primary, pulling in 67 percent of the vote. Burroughs' chief concerns are teacher quality and shielding students in the classroom from the effects of deep budget cuts.

"At the end of the day, it's about student success, so I think that's really my role as a member of the school board," said Burroughs, who is studying Education Policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and hopes to become a teacher. "My number one priority is going to be hiring and retaining highly-qualified teachers, and the ones that we have, we need to pay them more, and the ones that are struggling we need to provide them professional development.  If they're not able to be successful after that, they have to exit our system."

Burroughs is one of three young candidates running for seats on the school board in one of the state's lowest-performing counties. All three won their primaries and are gearing up for the November election. They believe their youth is a plus, arguing that they were students in these schools not long ago and know what is needed to improve them.

David Murray, who is 20, is running again after being narrowly defeated in 2010. He beat his nearest opponent by more than 20 points in Tuesday's primary. He says the county's schools can do a better job of preparing graduates for the future.

"Our county is lagging behind our peers. We're persistently at the bottom, in terms of student achievement and I want students to have the same opportunity to go to college and to be successful in the workforce," said Murray, who is also a college sophomore. "Young people have to get involved not just in voting, not just in politics, but in their education. We're the ones that can really make a difference, because we've been there and we understand what's working and what's not."

Raaheela Ahmed graduated from high school last year. At 18, she's the youngest candidate. On primary day, she campaigned outside her former school, High Bridge Elementary, telling voters that while she loved the school, there were many improvements that needed to be made. She has also been out canvassing neighborhoods and using social media to reach voters.

"I've actually gone door to door to many hundreds of houses," she explained. "I have my own website. I'm also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, so I'm really trying to make myself as reachable as possible to my constituency and because communication to me is very important."

Ahmed, who attended the country's schools for 13 years, said that if she wins a seat on the board, she'll do a better job of talking with the county's teachers about their concerns.

"I bring a knowledge of the schools," she said. "I bring a knowledge of the system and what goes on in the schools and I think that is something that could be a very good asset to the board."

Not everyone agrees that youth can be an asset. Andre Nottingham is running against Burroughs. He commended the teen for his civic engagement, but said helping to manage the school system's $1.6 billion budget requires more experience than his opponent can offer.

"That's a $1.6 billion business enterprise," Nottingham said. "We need folks with experience in management. I have that management experience and that's why I'm stepping forward."

Still, Burroughs and the others say they are forging ahead, determined to inject a bit of young energy and fresh ideas to the board.

"We've got to be willing to look at things differently," said Murray. "We've got to be willing to put in new people who have new ideas and different experiences. It doesn't help to have a room of 10 people if they all have the same background and the same set of ideas."

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soundoff (40 Responses)
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    April 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
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    April 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  3. arianaragon

    I think Edward Burroughs is great candidate for this seat. 1) He has experience on this board 2) I knew him because he was my counselor at a Leadership Workshop called MLW. 3) He has been participating in politics for a while and is really dedicated to you.

    Edward has my vote.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  4. www.sendwithme.com

    True leaders in the making

    April 10, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  5. Michael

    Each from their own perspectives and experiences and contrary to a popular MEME, That Teacher Knows Best, true change will never come from the Inside of an organization. I do not laud these children as being qualified enough to run and attain position just for their concerns, that they can even be concidered as a candidate shows just how immature the members of the local community are. All products of the US education system that by and large one that Teachers and Educators have made. Today we and they are seeing the results a if not a complete disastor one that has parents running around loojing for any damn thing that floats. As a society the middle and upper class are already in the life boats, Especicly teachers and their kids, whose only worry about their future is, How hard will they Have to Row in order to not get their ass*s thrown overboard!

    April 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  6. D.C. Russell

    As one of the most active political bloggers in Prince George's County, and a long-time observer of the school system and its failures, my view is that the primary results are a clear repudiation of an old-guard board that has its priorities all wrong.

    The article fails to mention that Ahmed beat the current chairwoman of the board. The same chairwoman who pushed for the board to spend $36 million on new offices in a building adjacent to a development with which her husband was associated. The husband was a registered lobbyist for the developer, who is now in federal prison. Husband is also a serial drunk driver with at least seven convictions.

    The county also has a former county executive, former county councilwoman, and former superintendent of schools in federal prison. A state delegate from the county is about to stand trial. A state senator was recently acquitted based on a defense that he was too stupid to realize what he was doing.

    Many residents believe it is time for a thorough housecleaning. These three youngsters stood up and accepted the challenge at a time when most possible candidates are still afraid of offending the corrupt bosses.

    April 9, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  7. Andrew

    THis is why the school system is failing just look at the picture up top non of them is qualified to be on the school board. Non of them are qualified to even teach.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jacob

      "THis is why the school system is failing just look at the picture up top non of them is qualified to be on the school board. Non of them are qualified to even teach."

      I truly hope you are being sarcastic. The first word in your comment has an elementary grammatical error. You misspelled none as "non" multiple times. I'd be quite worried if you were on a school board. At least these kids have gotten an education.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Roll

    There should be a meritocracy for both teachers and students w/n the system. School choice and vouchers should be looked at as well. Belgium system puts ours to shame.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  9. RR

    If an 18 year old is old enough to carry a rifle and die for his country, he's damned sure old enough to run for office...

    April 8, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • kpkpkp

      Sorry but that is such naive logic. I love it when urban legend/logic is used to over simplify important events. wish life was that simple.

      April 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  10. phil fugate

    I look at these bright, highly motavated young people and have tonelive we will be seeing them again in the future. Americas youth is fine.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  11. Mani

    To my American brethrens. It's good to see young people who are motivated and want to make a change. I'm sure the experience will look good on their cv.BUT, really, sanity needs to prevail. The teachers should be consulted to determine what changes need to be made to improve the system and the education processes. I am a 40 something individual who has been through the English education system, have been a senior manager and developed businesses and with all my life experiences I would struggle trying to reform an education system. Education begins at home. The parents are responsible for teaching the children manners and respect and making sure they work hard at school and complete their homework and have strong goals to fulfil their dreams. The teachers by in large are a hard working sector of the community world over and deserve respect for teaching our children. Have a nice day.

    April 8, 2012 at 4:57 am |
  12. Jackie

    Once ppl see race first that tells me they haveno intelligence, what does race have to do with it, are you saying blacks or the black dude don't have what it takes, you should see him first and foremost as a human being. Thats the problem with the world today race comes before everything else, why not congratulate the youths for trying to inject their youthful minds into something positive and not taking up guns or using drugs, this only means you cannot do better. SHAME ON YOU FOR SEEING RACE FIRST.

    April 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  13. Ted Ward

    You go get'em kids!

    April 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  14. Nick

    very exciting to see a new perspective injected into our schools today! hopefully a bit of new perspective proves beneficial to the community as a whole

    April 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  15. Dorian

    Impressive! Things look bright for MD down the road. True leaders in the making

    April 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  16. Virginia Teacher

    As an educator, I am happy to see these young people involved in their civic duties. That being said, they really have no idea what it entails to be an educator and, like the general public, they appear to simplify the problem. I noticed that the young people never said a thing about student responsibility and/or administrator challenges, rather focused only on the teachers, who already are overburdened and disrespected in their profession. Also, a large budget, like that of Prince George's is enormous and unfathomable to such young minds. Perhaps, there is a place for them on the School Board, but only in an advisory capacity, until they are able to have more life experience.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Fran

      You have no idea what each of these young people has faced in his or her own life. It is unfair of you to stereotype like this. "A large budget is unfathomable" – give me a break! Of course, as a teacher, you are frightened beyond belief that ACTUAL students may be on the board in a full voting capacity!

      April 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
      • kpkpkp

        Dear Fran, you must be about 12 because your arguments are those of prepubescent pre-teen. Good luck with that.

        April 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Andy

      The money is only important because it assists in getting the mission accomplished and that is educating kids to become successful when they graduate. The teachers are the source of that resource and the primary focus is on them because without them the system just would not work and families would have to fend for themselves in educating their kids.

      Its unfortunate the budget is usually the number 1 concern. If your budget is the number 1 concern then you have a major issue with your system. You want to stabilize it so it can less of an issue as the goal you are trying to accomplish.

      April 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • Andy

        On a side note most problems are simple.

        For an example for a budget you could be spending too much or not making enough to pay for your expenses. What makes it difficult and complex is us. People want nicer things but don't want to pay the price it costs for it. That is turning a simple problem into a complex one and society is NOTORIOUS for doing that especially when it comes to money.

        April 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Ted Ward

      Stop your whining!!! These kids are probably a bit naive but they'll learn, and quickly what's going on. By the way, teachers are NOT disrespected. They are only used by unions as a figleaf to hide their failures behind. Teachers sadly don't have much of a profession, they only have a union that tells them what to do and what to think and that's just fine with most "teachers". So sad. If teachers want to be a respected profession, they need to seize back to themselves their own profession and start acting like "professionals" not like assembly line workers. But basically, the whole public school system is beyond saving, because it's become completely resistant to any real accountability and has become unmanageable. For this reason, charter schools are becoming the goto solution by parents desperate for a way out of the public school system's mass child abuse and waste of their children's time and minds.

      April 7, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Virginia Taxpayer

      Virginia Teacher – First I want to say to the young adults – Congradulations!! Go for it – you can make a difference.

      Now Teacher – It appears that your focus is that these young people have no idea how to handle a large budget? Do you know any of these individuals personally? Perhaps they had good parents who taught them how to be financially responsible. Perhaps in their studies they took classes that taught them something about money management. Personally from watch the local news (Hampton Roads) every school district in this area is in dire straights. So it appears to me that all of these people on the school boards here are not doing very well handling their school district budgets. Age hasn't anything to do with peoples abilities and if all of these "mature" people were/are so successful – it would appear that our schools would be better off.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:57 am |
      • kpkpkp

        Hey there VA, I bet you are about 17 arent you? If not you argue like one with no logic or understanding. Oversimplifying the situation. Wish that life was like that. Oh but for you it is because mommy and daddy have told you all of your ideas are wonderful and you have no filter.

        April 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
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  18. whosurdaddy

    nothing eles r hiring anyway.

    April 7, 2012 at 3:01 am |
  19. adsfadf

    AS soonn AS i saw the black dude, i told my self i had to scroll down to see if there were gonna be any racist comments, lol first comment a racist one seriously ppl whats wrong with a young black male running for something such as that, are there any requirements that says he has to be black, its funny how poeple are racist on the internet but in real life there something completely different.

    April 6, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • ashabrandi


      April 7, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • kpkpkp

      No it isn't racist. It is only there if you want it to be there. I think you protest too much and you are the racist.

      April 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  20. A Random Girl

    I was hoping there wasn't going to be a racist comment. In fact the first one is racist. Great... Thanks for ruining my hope for humanity T_T

    April 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  21. Ivan Cohen

    Kudos to these young people who are willing to offer themselves for public office. I can remember when the elders would say to youth such as these that "someday you're gonna be running things". Now they don't have to wait until they are 20, 30, 40 or 50 something to make their presence felt. They can do it now. I hope their peers will have registered to vote and will support them. I hope the adults in Upper Marlboro, MD will give these young people a chance and vote for them. This is a win-win and does not require the "stealing of an election".

    April 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  22. Dave

    I guess the black one is going to steal the election like Comrade Obama

    April 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • AeireM

      My guess is that you are a low IQ racist. My second guess is that the "Black one" as you call him is a better person than you in every way.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Digger Barnes

      Wow, hate much?

      April 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • ashabrandi

      So ignorant!

      April 7, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • krue

      Your mama

      April 7, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • jade

      and Bush won his election without stealing it? Or we can get more racist... how about the black guy could steal the election like the whites stole america? Oh wait and then he can call it manifest destiny! Oh yeah that was a good one! You are so funny. See it goes both ways.... Stop defining people by their race and define them by their deeds.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • mw

      ignorance is curable; however stupidity is not!

      April 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |