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Forest Hills voters shake up school board with election of 2 new members

Zack Carreon

After a 2021 school board race that saw the election of four candidates who ran on an anti-critical race theory platform, voters in the Forest Hills School District decided to change course and elect two liberal-leaning candidates: Wendy Strickler Biederman and Jason Simmons.

Biederman and Simmons, both college professors, campaigned together and ran with the intent of bringing "balance" to a school board that has pushed to end events like Turpin High School's Diversity Day and approved the district's "Culture of Kindness" resolution, which has since resulted in a lawsuit.

The "Culture of Kindness" resolution bans assignments where students must consider their race, religion, gender identity, or sexuality, and has proved to be a divisive issue within the school community.

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After the votes were counted Tuesday night, Simmons told WVXU the results of the election show people in the community are ready to put politics aside and focus on issues that actually affect students.

"All kids are welcome here," he said. "The focus should be on kids in the school district. Not political drama. Not earworms from the outside, fear-mongering and whatnot, but focusing on issues that matter in our school district and starting to restore some trust between the district and the community."

Despite the differences the two have with the other members of the board, Biederman says she and Simmons plan to work with the rest of the board to improve the district for students.

"I don't pretend I'm going into an easy situation," Biederman said. "We are two positions out of five and we'll need to work hard to find common ground as a current board. I hope, I guess to be a bridge builder, to figure out where we can come together."

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Biederman and Simmons beat out conservative candidates Kevin Comerford and Kenneth Kuhn, who both ran on the parents' rights platform and expressed support for policies passed by the current board.

Finishing at the bottom was Kris Walke, who told WVXU his top priority was to re-instate Anderson High School's Native American mascot, which was removed in 2020.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.