Piedmont Unified School Board Appoints Their First Student Members

Kira Pan, Staff Writer


The last bell of the day echoes through the STEAM building halls but instead of going home, three Piedmont students prepare to attend the school board meeting.

The Board of Education approved three new Student Board Member positions for Millenium and Piedmont High School upperclassmen. The board members will function as preferential voting members of the board, serving for one school-year.

Over the summer, senior Gianna Yan petitioned for a Student Board Member position on the Piedmont Unified School Board. The petition was signed by just over 10% of the student body and resulted in the newly appointed student board members: senior Gianna Yan, junior Siddharth Bhatia, and junior Cleopatra Tahawi, who will represent the voice of all students in the district.

“I was looking through California law and one of the policies stated that if 10% of students in a school district are in favor of a school board position where students are able to be appointed or elected, the school district would be mandated to put one in place,” Yan said. 

Finding support for her initiative in this law inspired Yan to take action and create the petition. After Yan gathered 100 signatures, the school was required to create a Student Board Member position.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Donald Evans, received Yan’s petition in July, which was then voted on by the school board. 

“The board voted on having a Student Board Member for Millenium as well as Piedmont High School,” Evans said. 

Evans is excited to utilize student member input in the board meetings. 

“It’s so good to hear what they have to say when it comes to certain things because sometimes we’re presenting and using a lot of data, but this data has a face behind it,” Evans said. “It can give you a different perspective. I’m just looking at what the data shows, but why does it show this? How do the students feel about this?”

Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Sylvia Flores Eggert, said that she is confident in Evans’ take on the new Student Board Members given his previous experience with this role at Berkeley Unified School District.

“Dr. Evans has a lot of experience with student board members sitting on boards with Berkeley Unified, so he knows what to expect and what to look for,” Eggert said.

Yan said her main vision for this position was to close the communication gap between student leaders and administration to create tangible change. 

“I think we have a lot of student leaders on campus and I’m really proud of that, so I wasn’t worried about the student voice,” Yan said. “One issue that I recognized was with these student leaders, it felt like there was this communication gap between the kids and the adults, especially with the administration.”

After the school board voting, the application process for selecting the new Student Board Members began.

“The applications were sent online to juniors and seniors at both Millennium and Piedmont High School to download and submit,” Evans said. 

Once the applications were submitted, nine members of the cabinet team, including Evans, screened each application. The board received six applications from Piedmont High School and one application from Millennium High School. Three applicants from PHS were invited for interviews and appointed.

Graphic by Kira Pan

“From the screening of the applications, we selected three. After the selection of the three candidates, they were interviewed by two board members,” Evans said. 

When the position was posted, it stated that there would be one MHS and one PHS Student Board Member appointed, but following interviews with the three Piedmont candidates, the board members decided they liked all of them, and chose to appoint all three Student Board Members.

“There were certain things they liked about each one,” Evans said. “We had one application from Millennium, but the student was a sophomore.” 

The board did not ultimately appoint a Millenium Student Board Member.

The paper application process is unique to the 2022-2023 school year. Due to the last minute nature of the petition, Dr. Evans created the temporary application to expedite the selection process. 

“I think that the way Dr. Evans created the [selection] process was fair because the petition came in July and the board typically does not meet then,” said Eggert. “We had a set amount of time to take action. In order to meet that deadline, we could not have an election the way we typically would.” 

The 2022-2023 Student Board Members encourage all students to approach them with their input and ideas, either in person or through email.

“Next year, the Student Board Members are going to be voted on by the students, and that’s what I’m really excited for because it’s the student voice,” Yan said. “If we’re able to vote in or nominate a person, that’s even better.”

Junior Siddharth Bhatia, a new Student Board Member, wants students to be able to speak up through the new student board.

“We want input. We need input,” Bhatia said.