If you have the occasion to visit the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School cafeteria before the end of May, you just might find Matthew Schultz working the room.
The 18-year-old senior won’t be busing tables. Instead, he’s soliciting votes.
Schultz is running for the district’s Board of Education, something a student hasn’t done in a very long time.
Although most of those eating in the cafeteria are too young to vote for him in the May 20 election, Schultz has been discussing his run for one of the three vacant BH-BL board seats with teachers and asking them to sign his petition. He’s already surpassed the 45-signature requirement and said he hopes to get many more before April 21, the day his petition must be submitted to the clerk of the board.
You might say BH-BL district affairs run in Schultz’s blood: His great uncle, Jim, is the former district superintendent.
Schultz said he has met with his uncle to discuss his run.
“He gave me some insight about what’s going on and different things to expect,” he said.
BH-BL High School Principal Tim Brunson, who has worked in the district for nearly 14 years, said a student has not run for school board during his tenure.
He said Schultz would be a fine representative for the district.
“He is certainly dedicated. Matthew has been to every board meeting I’ve been to this year,” he noted.
Schultz started going to the school board meetings simply to rack up community service hours, but quickly discovered he enjoyed them.
“Matthew is a concerned citizen and I think those are the best representatives for the board, and that’s exactly the type of person we want on our board,” Brunson said.
Schultz said he can bring a unique perspective to the board not only as a student, but as a young man who was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age.
“I have kind of a different point of view than most students that have seen regular classes and stuff. I see more than that. I see the regular classes and the special ed classes and stuff like that,” he said.
Schultz started school enrolled exclusively in special-education classes but has worked his way out of all of them and now studies in regular classes. He said he’s been on the high honor roll since sixth grade.
He has received high scores on his Regents exams and is in the running for a national award offered through Scholastic for his progress in the specialized reading program used in the district.
Schultz plans to attend Schenectady County Community College in the fall to study business administration with a minor in computer science. After that, he has his sights set on the University at Albany, followed by Albany Law School. His goal is to become an attorney.
When he’s not at school, Schultz works at his family’s business, Schultz Garden Center in Glenville.
Balancing his studies and greenhouse work with the responsibilities that come with being a school board member shouldn’t be a problem, he said.
“One of my abilities is definitely time management and effectively having things done on time,” he explained.
Al Marlin, communications manager for the New York State School Boards Association, said a handful of students have run for local school boards in the recent past.
According to Robert Hanlon, spokesman for the Scotia-Glenville Central School District, Scotia-Glenville student Joseph Benny served on that district’s board for two terms, from 1996 to 2002.
“I think it provides a diverse look at school, through a student who has been involved in the latest technology and curriculum and [who] maybe will be able to provide another insight to the school board,” said Marlin.
So far, Schultz’s only known competition for a seat on the seven-member board is current board member John Blowers of Ballston Lake.
There will be a meet-the-candidate night at 7:30 p.m. May 5 in the BH-BL high school library.
Schultz’s message to voters: “Although I am young, I do have experience. Don’t necessarily overlook me because I’m 18.”