Alachua County School Board elections: District 2 pits Mildred Russell against Diyonne McGraw

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The race for the Alachua County Public Schools District 2 seat this year carries with it history from the last election cycle.

This election includes former school board member Diyonne McGraw and current member Mildred Russell.

Diyonne McGraw, left, was unseated by the governor a year ago and replaced with Mildred Russell following a residency dispute.

McGraw was previously elected to the seat in 2020 and then removed by Gov. Ron DeSantis after only seven months in office.

Her residence was then some 300 feet outside of the district, though that’s no longer the case after the redistricting process brought her property inside District 2.

McGraw said she remains inspired to run.

“I’m committed to all students,” she said.

McGraw’s replacement was Russell, a minister. DeSantis appointed her in August 2021. She doesn’t have a background in public education, but does have a background in instructing children through her and her husband’s work in starting and growing churches.

“We’ve had that experience with people, which always involves children, and children’s church and children learning. So that has been a very good background for me,” Russell said, “and I homeschooled our children.”

Russell said her year of experience on the board has helped her learn more about how the district functions. She wants to focus on the achievement gap in developing the workforce of Alachua County.

“If you look around this county, this world, we are not building the workforce for the future. And that is serious. And that’s extremely alarming to me. But none of our students who don’t know which direction they want to take, and we as the education system, the school system, we have to do a much better job,” Russell said.

Click the map to see the boundary lines of each school board member’s district.

An issue Russell said she wants to solve is how students behave in the classroom.

“They are so disruptive that it keeps the student misbehaving, as well as his or her classmates and the teacher from teaching and learning,” she said

Russell says she’s already asked for a workshop to address the problem. She believes that solving behavioral problems will improve the environment in the classroom, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes.

In March, Russell along with board members Gunnar Paulson and Rob Hyatt voted to terminate superintendent Carlee Simon. Russell said she believes Simon had her own personal agenda while leading the district.

“The first and most important thing is a passion to improve our student outcomes. The students must come first. No agendas, no personal ambitions. But caring about our district caring about our students that is is the most important,” Russell said.

McGraw also wants to see a superintendent who puts children first and someone who is involved with the community.

“We got to have a person who is willing to listen 99% of your success is listening. But we also got to have a superintendent who understands how to look at data, who understand what it takes, who’s also a community builder,” McGraw said.

Russell as of Aug. 2 led the race for campaign contributions with almost $30,000. McGraw is trailing, with $19,000.

About Matthew Bell

Matthew is a Digital Producer and Reporter for WUFT. His work focuses on sports and education, but he ventures out into other areas as well. In the spring of 2021 and summer of 2022, Matthew worked for ESPN Gainesville where he provided hourly sports updates and wrote for the website. In 2022, Matthew began contributing to The Point Podcast and providing local hourly news updates on All Things Considered. He may be reached by emailing bellmatthew@ufl.edu.

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