Main Street News

Recent Pine Plains Grad Reflects on Time as First Student Board Representative

By Published On: September 6th, 2023

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), 31 states mostly in the Northeast and the Midwest reported having student board members as a local option.

This past year, the Pine Plains Central School District in Pine Plains, NY had its first ever student representative of the Board of Education (BOE): John Bopp.

As a student member of the BOE, John’s responsibility was to bridge the gap between the student body and administration. “I allowed the Board to see the school from the perspective of a student and I provided insight in discussions,” John says.

John says that he would meet with Dr. Brian Timm, the Superintendent of the Pine Plains Central School District, on the day of the meeting and discuss the topics that would be covered later in the evening at that meeting.

“At the meetings, I had my own segment of discussion where I would present the current status of the student body, and I would bring up concerns and ideas that I had discussed with Dr. Timm and ones that were brought to me by my fellow peers,” John says. “Amongst my peers, I served as a form of clarification for what was going on at the board meetings, and students would come to me with questions and topics that they would like me to discuss with Dr. Timm.”

John’s position as a student member was a non-voting position, but he says that his input in discussions allowed the Board to see first-hand how a student would be affected by their decisions. For this reason, John stresses the importance of having a student voice on the Board.

“The decisions that the Board makes directly affects the student body, and having a student representative gives the student body an input on the decisions that directly affect their lives,” he says.

He says that having a student board representative provides an outlet for students to voice their thoughts and concerns.

“During my time as student representative, many of my peers approached me with their questions, thoughts, and opinions about the current status of our Board of Education and what had happened at the previous meeting,” he says.

This year, John says he noticed a “massive uptick” in interest about what was being discussed during the meetings and he correlates this with students having their own representative at meetings. In previous years, John says he can’t recall students talking about Board of Education meetings. However, his position as student member, combined with Mr. Schoonmaker’s assigned board meetings for Participation in Government, he says “the student body showed genuine interest as to what the Board of Education was doing.”

John says that the biggest thing he learned during his time with the Board is how a school operates and how and why decisions are made.

“There are many, many moving parts that go on behind the scenes of a school, but to the general public (especially students), it might be confusing why a decision was made or why something was approved or not.”

John details an example of when he was able to voice concerns of the student body regarding extracurriculars at a Board meeting. He says, “I had discussed with many students the concern of decreased membership in clubs and lack of involvement from underclassmen. Many clubs were being run by upperclassmen with very low involvement from younger students.”

He says that he brought the students’ concerns to Dr. Timm and the Board, and they worked to find possible solutions to solve the lack of involvement. However, John says that it wasn’t until he discussed the issue with another student that he was able to find a viable solution.

“I discussed the concern with National Honor Society President Amanda Dillinger, and she had the idea of hosting a ‘club fair’ to increase awareness of what extracurriculars our school offers.”

John says he brought the idea to Dr. Timm and Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School Principal Chris Boyd and they worked out the logistics of when and where the club fair would happen. Following the club fair, John says that many students learned of the various clubs the school offers and some students signed interest forms for joining clubs during the upcoming school year.

“This is my favorite example of how I was able to use my position as Student Board Member to collaborate with my peers and school administration to work towards improving the school experience for the whole student body.”

While John says that his participation on the Board didn’t impact his college decision – he will be attending SUNY Binghamton in the fall of 2023 to study engineering – he says that it did impact how he plans on spending his free time in college.

“Being on the Board let me see how important it is to take a step towards change and to voice my opinions, and because of that, I’m going to join extracurriculars where I can to help improve the quality of life for the student body at my university.”