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Student-backed candidates claim victory, win heated school board race in Orchard Park, NY

Students Protecting Education's first official slate of endorsed candidates were elected late Tuesday night in a victory for students, teachers, and the community of Orchard Park as a whole.

Above (left to right), Jen Rogers, Luke Lippitt, Jillian Yarnes, Ed Draves, and Steve Comeau

After 6 long months of tension in Orchard Park, New York; the community has chosen. On Tuesday, Orchard Park choose love. Orchard Park choose acceptance. Candidates Jen Rogers, Ed Draves, and Steve Comeau were elected late Tuesday night after a month of highly contested and tense campaigning.

After the November Board of Education Meeting, and the formation of Students Protecting Education; Rogers, Draves, and Comeau decided to run to protect the educational excellence and integrity of our schools, and to support ALL students. This came after multiple board meetings of parents asking for books to be banned and openly opposing the Gender Identity Policy which affirms and gives LGBTQ+ students a safe learning environment to be in.

In April, Students Protecting Education was made aware of the candidates running for school board. After close evaluation, our students choose to support Rogers, Draves, and Comeau, because of their support for student values, voices, and ideas, as well as the shared values of diversity, inclusivity, and equity.

Our student volunteers spent a month campaigning for Rogers, Draves, and Comeau, showing the community our strong support for these candidates. In volunteering, it was made clear to us how important the community saw our voices in this election. And we saw that in the results of yesterday's vote. Thanks to student voices and support, Rogers, Draves, and Comeau were successful, with each candidate outpacing their challengers by more than 800 votes.

While supporting the candidates who support us, we also showed our support and campaigned for Proposition 3, which allows a student to serve on the school board as an ex-officio member. This proposition is so important to students because it gives us a seat at the table, somewhere for student thoughts and ideas to be represented, heard, and listened to.

As another demonstration of the successful impact of student voices, involvement, and support, Proposition 3 was passed by a 3:1 margin receiving more than 75% of the vote out of almost 5,000 votes. These election results serve as a powerful validation of our collective efforts and reinforce our commitment to continuing the fight for an equitable and enriching educational experience for every student.

Jillian Yarnes and Luke Lippitt hold up a sign encouraging voters to support Proposition 3

As we celebrate this milestone, we look forward to an era of progress, inclusion, and transformative change in education. The future is bright, and together, we will continue to shape it for the betterment of all students.

A special thank you to Jen Rogers, Ed Draves, and Steve Comeau; our appreciation for your true dedication to the values of diversity & inclusion along with your passion for listening to and encouraging student voices cannot be explained in words. Thank you for everything you do, we look forward to working with you in the future!

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