New Pine Plains Herald

Occupation: Community Builder

An Interview with New Pine Plains School Superintendent Brian Timm

For Brian Timm, education and community are inseparable. Since July, he’s been Superintendent of Pine Plains Central School District, overseeing approximately 850 students and a staff of 250. 

“I love to work in a small town,” he said in a recent interview. “The faculty and students really know each other, and the students collaborate more than perhaps they do in larger schools.” Timm first worked in the Pine Plains system in 2014, becoming deputy superintendent in 2017. 

Timm, who is on a five-year contract, wants to build a model district, reviving in person learning and ensuring that income disparity in the area does not impact academic performance. 

“What’s unusual and particularly wonderful about our schools is that so many people both live and work in Pine Plains, and their kids go to school here,” he said. “This really is a community school.” 

His challenges include a shrinking student body and, in common with schools nationwide, the broad learning losses occasioned by remote learning during the Covid pandemic. 

“I’d like to see the school community come together and revitalize some of the human connections that were sorely missed these two years,” Timm said. Asked what connections in particular need to be rebuilt, he said, “The ability to be kind.” 

“Remote learning was hard for all grades, but particularly hard for the middle grades who are developing social skills.” 

Reliable internet was and continues to be a constant challenge: “For remote learning we arranged for hot spots for the students,” Timm said, “but in some places there is bad cell service so that didn’t work. We need to work on that.” 

Still, he said, “We want to keep our ability to learn remotely, if that’s ever needed in the future.” 

In one of his first actions, Timm launched an information gathering exercise open to any community member. “This is a Thought Exchange,” he said. “It will inform the district’s new strategic plan.” About 300 responses have been received so far. 

So far, the responses reflect the diversity of Pine Plains. Many residents favor expanding courses that build greater college and career readiness, more hands-on learning, more mentorship in the wider community, more high-level electives, a focus on students’ eating habits and mental health, and a standardized school communications platform. Other respondents want more transparency in what is being taught, more support for the arts and writing, bringing back book fairs, and avoiding “politically divisive ideology.” 

Contribute your ideas now  here  as the online discussion ends later this month. Timm says the next phase, in January, will involve debating the community’s recommendations with staff, the Board of Education and other stakeholders, with an eye towards implementing them later in 2023. 

Timm has worked in Dutchess County his entire life. Growing up in Poughkeepsie, he first started as a swimming coach, taught chemistry for 10 years, then transitioned to administration because, as he put it, “I wanted to make a bigger impact.” 

In improving Pine Plains schools, Timm sees the community as his greatest asset: “There are times when I need to call someone to help us do something for the school. They always provide it. The people of Pine Plains never refuse.” 

Watch for updates on the school district’s strategic plan in The New Pine Plains Herald.

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