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Groups with ideological differences endorse in OCS Board of Education race

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Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock

Along with voting in party primaries on March 5, voters will also choose Orange County Schools Board of Education members. 

Some of the candidates, though, are tied to the Friends of Orange County Schools, a political action committee whose leaders have criticized the board for prioritizing equity over education.

The board has three seats up for election, with seven candidates: Kevin Alston Jr., Carrie Doyle, Bonnie Hauser, Michael Johnson, Jennifer Moore, Wendy Padilla and Cindy Shriner. Doyle, Hauser and Moore are incumbents.

Hauser, Johnson and Shriner have all been endorsed by the Friends of OCS, which is concerned with issues like graphic material in schools’ curriculum, increasing parental involvement in students’ education and decreasing the influence of political agendas in academic instruction. So far this election cycle, the PAC has spent about $3,700.

The Friends of OCS also endorsed current board chair Anne Purcell's campaign in 2022.

In an article published by The Assembly, Susan Halkiotis, a leader in the Friends of OCS, said current educational policy has prioritized Black students over any other ethnicity and that a focus on equity has caused division, to the detriment of education and achievement.

“I am concerned about statements that have been made from the founders of Friends of Orange County Schools and some of the other groups supporting those candidates that really just clarify for me which candidates I want to be supportive of," Jenn Weaver, former Hillsborough mayor, said. "So I do think that those endorsements matter.”

Weaver said high academic achievement and equity are intertwined, and the candidates she endorsed understand that.

“This election is about who is prepared to lead our district in a student-centered way, providing a district environment for today’s kids that equips them for today’s world and well into the future," Weaver said.

Doyle, Moore and Padilla have been endorsed by Weaver, INDY Week, Triangle Blog Blog and Communities Supporting Orange County Schools. Padilla was also endorsed by N.C. Rep. Renée Price (D-Caswell, Orange).

The N.C. General Assembly passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, or Senate Bill 49, last year over the veto of Gov. Roy Cooper. The law bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through fourth grade and requires parents be notified if their child changes their pronouns or name in school.

Price, who voted against S.B. 49, and Weaver both said curriculum is a concern in this election.

“Orange County Schools have made great strides in recent years implementing policies that are making real progress on turning around some of the academics that had been struggling and also in making our schools more inclusive to all students and all families, and that feels a little bit under threat right now,” Weaver said.

Weaver said there are threats to particular groups of students and their families, and she wants a school board that is prepared to protect those students and serve all students.

Price said this election is about making sure children who have been underserved are treated equally and receive an education that suits their needs.

“All seven [candidates] will say that they have the interest of the children, and I believe that,” Price said. "I just believe that we need to be more progressive, and that’s why I would like to see [Doyle and Moore] continue in their positions and add Wendy Padilla."

Carrboro Mayor Barbara Foushee said these races are less about policy and more about people. 

"I think if you lead with people first, the policy will take care of itself," Foushee said.

Shriner and Johnson did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's request for comment by the time of publication. Hauser responded with a links to the Friends of OCS Facebook page and her endorsements.

@SSmiley2027

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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