Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Teen activist wins Rochester School Board primary and 2 candidates are too close to call

James Brown
WXXI News file photo

On Tuesday evening, 19-year-old Isaiah Santiago joined incumbents Beatriz LeBron and Ricardo Adams at an election result watch party at Seventy West Restaurant and Lounge on Central Ave.

Around this time last year, Santiago graduated from School of the Arts in the Rochester City School District and was named Monroe County’s Young Citizen of the Year. Now, he’s one of four candidates expected to be elected to the school board of his alma mater.

“I am young, but I have a direct understanding of the issues that we deal with in our school district,” Santiago said.

Santiago has been a proponent for improving students’ social-emotional wellness in the city school district since before his campaign for school board.

As a high school student, he spearheaded an initiative to add peer mentoring opportunities and mental health literacy in schools as a way to prevent violence and improve student outcomes. In his junior and senior year, he attended school board meetings.

“So my age is exactly where my expertise stands,” he said, “but I also understand budgeting. I also understand policy and I also understand what you must do to supervise the superintendent, which are the three main responsibilities of our school board.”

He will join incumbents Beatriz LeBron and Amy Maloy on the school board at a time when the district is flush with a more than $1 billion budget, including one-off federal pandemic-relief grants that will expire by the end of the next school year.

“It lets me finish the goals that I want to finish on the school district,” LeBron said about being re-elected. “Which is converting our budget into a participatory budgeting for greater transparency and understanding for families in this community, and how dollars are spent.”

A third incumbent, Ricardo Adams trailed behind newcomer Jacqueline Griffin by 0.13% — a margin so narrow that it may trigger an automatic recount.

As there is no contest in the election this November, the four candidates with the highest vote-count are expected to be voted on to the school board.

The vote breakdown as of 11:45 PM Tuesday is as follows:

Ricardo Adams - 4065

Maria Cruz - 3824

Vince Felder - 2849

Jaqueline Griffin - 4105

Beatriz LeBron - 5596

Amy Maloy - 4992

Isaiah Santiago - 5263

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.