John Walker graduated from Telstar Regional High School in 2016. During his time as a student there, he took in everything, including things he thought should be improved and things he thought should be preserved. He attended school board meetings and felt a slight disconnection between members of the board and the students of the district. So he ran for and won a seat on the school board — the youngest member — in July of 2017. His term is up for re-election in 2020, and until then he’s determined to be a voice for the students.
Name: John Walker
Hometown: West Bethel
Occupation: Quality control technician at Oldcastle Lawn and Garden.
What made you want to become a school board member? As a student I paid more attention to my surroundings than most, and saw some things that I believed should be worked on and changed. For example, when I was a student, I rarely saw board members out and about in school. I try my hardest to attend school functions, and I’ve made it a point to visit the schools several times this year.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time on the board? I aim to bring the perspective of a recent student to the board, to bring to light what it’s like to be a student in MSAD 44 today. As a student and community member attending meetings, I saw how out of touch some board members were with what it’s like as a student in our district.
What is it like being the youngest member on the board? It’s definitely different being the youngest member of the board in terms of knowing some things, like the flow of a meeting and stuff like that, but I have been well received otherwise by my fellow board members. I’ve made sure to speak up when something isn’t accurate about students in the 21st century, such as learning styles and technology in the classroom, and I will always point out when something worked for me and my classmates, and when something wasn’t very popular. I believe by me doing this, I’ve given some board members a different way to look at things.
Is the school board a stepping stone for you for further political involvement? There is definitely some potential in the future for running for another public office, but I have no particular plans at this time.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a board member? My age at times can be a challenge, primarily with the public. I haven’t had much trouble recently, but around the time of the election, some people would say things like, “You’re only 18, what do you know about a school board,” etc. It has improved significantly as time has passed. I think people have seen that I care about our district and what’s happening in the classroom. Most recent graduates and people my age will rarely look back and care about what’s going on in their “old” schools and classrooms. That’s where I’m different. I care deeply about what’s happening in our schools today!
John Walker, 19, of West Bethel, is SAD 44’s youngest school board member, and is determined to be a voice for the students. (Photo courtesy of John Walker)