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Local suburban school board election results show wide divide on anti-racism and school safety

 Nicole Doyley is one of three candidates elected to the Penfield Central School Districts school board on Tuesday.
provided by Nicole Doyley
Nicole Doyley is one of three candidates elected to the Penfield Central School Districts school board on Tuesday.

Voters in suburban school districts across New York state decided the direction their school boards will take in the coming years. Local schools may see a dramatic juxtaposition in ideologies on school boards around the region.

In Penfield, three women of color endorsed by the Penfield Anti-Racist Alliance were elected to the school board.

Author Nicole Doyley was among them. She says she’d like to see more anti-racism training for teachers, and a curriculum that reflects a greater diversity of perspectives and experiences.

“Kids learn about slavery, I think it's in third grade, and that's their first foray into learning about Black people,” Doyley said. “And I think that's bad. I think the curriculum should start in Africa before colonizers came.”

She says that approach may be different than what has been traditionally taught in schools, but there’s a great need for it.

“My sons could count on one hand the number of books that they've read by black authors,” Doyley said. “But, of course, they've lost count how many books they've read by white authors. So you could graduate thinking, ‘Well, I guess Black people don't just don't write books.’ And that's a travesty.”

Doyley said she’d rather students learn a sense of pluralism and develop the ability to co-exist despite any differences. She will serve a three-year term.

In Greece, two white candidates running on a more conservative platform were also elected onto their school board.

Mark Buonauguario is one of them. He said he wants to see less division and intolerance within school communities, and claimed critical race theory, an academic legal framework taught in law school, is contributing to that.

“Critical theory is really about carving us up into different identity groups that oppose each other, that pit each other against each other,” Buonauguario said. “We don’t see any need for that we want to bring people together treat people as people.”

The critical race theory framework is used in academia to understand how institutions function, not individuals, but has become a major political talking point.

Buonauguario said he’d like to see an updated code of conduct for students who he says are out of control and need to be held accountable.

“We need to give authority to teachers and staff, bus drivers, for example, in having to deal with difficult situations, there needs to be a means of holding students accountable when one behavior goes awry,” he said.

Across Monroe County, voters approved all school board budgets.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.