by Grant Kilen – Senior-Class President, Francis Howell North

The political action committee behind Steven Blair and Carolie Owens recently posted an Instagram post attempting to attack and belittle myself and others who support Adriana Kuhn’s and Sam Young’s candidacy for the Francis Howell School Board. Most egregious is slide 8, which states that Young and Kuhn’s endorsers, including myself, “lack experience in education or involvement with our schools,” bear a “disdain for public education,” and are making “an effort to defund school programs.”

When I ran for class president, I campaigned on being a strong voice for the students I represent, and that I wouldn’t back down at the slightest push-back from complainers. So let me make one thing clear:  Francis Howell Forward’s attempt to intimidate me is nothing more than a waste of their time. I would like to address the lies leveled against myself, not only to clear my name, but to demonstrate FH Forward’s disregard for the truth in their attempt to intimidate students when they can’t use them for their politics.

FH Forward would have you believe that I have a “lack of experience with and involvement in our schools“. These are the same schools I have been attending since I was two years old, when I started preschool at Hackmann EC!  I’ve been a part of just about as many extracurriculars and district summer camps as I could fit in my schedule. In terms of experience in Francis Howell, I have as much as any student.  The second part of this attack is that I am not “involved” with the district. I’ll assume that FH Forward means their own involvement—political involvement—and in that case they are gravely incorrect. I’m reasonably certain that I’ve attended more board meetings than any student, and I’ve had countless conversations with board members and central office administrators. I’ve successfully moved numerous positive changes in our district, including policy changes. So when it comes to involvement, I believe that I’m as involved as any student. Given this, I think Francis Howell Forward’s message is clear: there is no student who is qualified to speak on what he or she believes is best for the district. 

FH Forward has further accused me of bearing a “disdain for public education“. This is a wholly fabricated assertion. I have a deep appreciation of my public education. My mother worked in public education. I have frequently attended the state legislature to advocate for public education. I am well aware that many people perceive problems with public education, and I think that it is regrettable that some would rather seek privatization than solutions to those problems. To speculate that I have a disdain for public education is just putting words in my mouth. 

FH Forward finally accuses me of making “an effort to defund student programs“. Yet another unfounded accusation. No action I have ever taken has been an effort to defund student programs; in fact, quite the opposite. I worked with the administration to get protein shakes into vending machines, adding to a source of revenue for the district. Any FHN senior will report that I’ve never endorsed “senior skip days”. That’s because I know that the district loses a significant amount of funding for every student who is absent on a given day. 

There are some serious conclusions which can be drawn here:

Francis Howell Forward has yet to disclose their litmus test for who is qualified to have an opinion on district affairs. But, as is now plain for all to see, said test is apparently unattainable for any student. Which begs the question: why would FH Forward solicit and amplify student voices at all? When will they tell those who they encouraged to “walk out” that it was all a big lie?  When will FH Forward tell these students that they didn’t believe the students even knew what they were talking about, but they used them anyway because it was politically convenient?

Let us also consider the relationship between FH Forward advocating for students to skip school but then claiming to oppose defunding student programs. Soon before the scheduled “walk out”, the district promulgated a statement stating that student who participated would be marked absent in accordance with standard attendance procedures. Francis Howell Forward nonetheless pressured students to walk out. This means Francis Howell Forward knowingly acted in a way which could have cost the district thousands of dollars; but in this case, Francis Howell Forward didn’t mind defunding student programs if it furthered their political beliefs.

Here’s how you can help to elect a school board that represents YOU: