Beau­fort County school board elec­tion guide

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAG­GIE ANGST mangst@is­land­packet.com

On Tues­day, vot­ers will have the op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the Beau­fort County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion — a board that has been ridiculed for its in­fight­ing and dys­func­tion in re­cent years.

Seven of the 11 seats are up for grabs and four of those cur­rent board mem­bers are run­ning for re-elec­tion, in­clud­ing Dis­trict 2’s David Striebinger, Dis­trict 3’s Cyn­thia Gre­gory-Smalls, Dis­trict 4’s Joseph Dun­kle and Dis­trict 7’s Evva An­der­son.

KEY IS­SUES Ad­dress­ing over­crowd­ing

As the Bluffton pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to ex­pand ex­po­nen­tially, ad­dress­ing over­crowded schools is go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult but im­por­tant task for school board mem­bers.

Dis­trict staff re­cently rec­om­mended re­zon­ing about 750 stu­dents start­ing next year and adding 54 mo­biles class­rooms at four Bluffton schools over the next three years.

Although this plan is set to be ap­proved be­fore the new board mem­bers be­gin their terms, they will need to find a long-term so­lu­tion for the over­crowd­ing at Bluffton schools.

Hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum

In March 2017, Beau­fort County res­i­dents voted against a ref­er­en­dum for the sec­ond time in 18 months, deny­ing the school dis­trict mil­lions of dol­lars, much of which was to be used to build and ex­pand ex­ist­ing schools in Bluffton.

The scale of April’s re­jec­tion of the $ 76 mil­lion bond ref­er­en­dum — 72 per­cent against and 28 per­cent in fa­vor — was un­prece­dented.

Now, in a crunch for fund­ing to al­le­vi­ate school over­crowd­ing in Bluffton, dis­trict of­fi­cials have said that an­other ref­er­en­dum could be placed on the bal­lot as early as Novem­ber 2019.

Choos­ing a new su­per­in­ten­dent

Su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss left the dis­trict at the end of July, a lit­tle more than two months af­ter he handed in his res­ig­na­tion to the school board.

In­terim su­per­in­ten­dent Herb Berg was hired in Au­gust to fill Moss’ place for one year. He has stated from the be­gin­ning that he is not in­ter­ested in ex­tend­ing his term but is fo­cused on help­ing the school board find the best can­di­date for the su­per­in­ten­dent po­si­tion.

The school board chose a search com­mit­tee that will be in charge of find­ing can­di­dates last month. The board plans to iden­tify fi­nal­ists by late March and an­nounce its choice for a per­ma­nent su­per­in­ten­dent by mid-April 2019, ac­cord­ing to its plan.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

A deeply di­vided board Since seven of the 11 Beau­fort

County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion seats are up for elec­tion on Nov. 6, the out­come could bring a lot of new faces to the board and help to al­le­vi­ate its deep di­vides.

In the wake of for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss’ 2015 ethics vi­o­la­tions, board mem­bers split into two pretty clear fac­tions with six board mem­bers who gen­er­ally backed Moss and five who tended to ques­tion him and his mo­tives reg­u­larly.

Five of the board’s six-per­son ma­jor­ity seats are up for grabs and two of those board mem­bers are up for re-elec­tion — Dis­trict 3’s Cyn­thia Gre­gory-Smalls and Dis­trict 7’s Evva An­der­son.

Two of the board’s five-per­son mi­nor­ity seats are open and both board mem­bers are run­ning for re-elec­tion — Dis­trict 2’s David Striebinger and Dis­trict 4’s Joseph Dun­kle.

Elect­ing new board lead­er­ship

Af­ter the new board mem­bers are in­ducted in Jan­uary, new of­fi­cers will also be cho­sen.

Earl Camp­bell, the longest­serv­ing mem­ber on the board, is cur­rently the chair­man. Bill Payne is sec­re­tary and Geri Kin­ton serves as vice-chair. Both Kin­ton and Payne de­cided not to run for re-elec­tion.

All three board mem­bers are part of the board’s ma­jor­i­ty­bloc, which were vo­cal sup­port­ers of for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss.

In re­cent years, mem­bers of the mi­nor­ity-bloc have ac­cused the of­fi­cers and other ma­jor­ity board mem­bers of be­hind-thescenes machi­na­tions and with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion from the full board.

The ap­point­ment of new of­fi­cers will give the board a fresh start and could help to re­lieve ten­sion among board mem­bers.

Gain­ing pub­lic trust

Fol­low­ing for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss’ 2015 ethics vi­o­la­tions, trust in Moss, the board and the dis­trict as a whole be­gan to fal­ter.

April’s ref­er­en­dum, which vot­ers re­jected by his­tor­i­cal mar­gins, was seen to some as a re­buke of the dis­trict’s lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing dys­func­tion on the school board and an on­go­ing FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing Moss and re­lated to the con­struc­tion of two Bluffton schools.

The new board will have the task of work­ing to re­build trust among the com­mu­nity if they hope to get the po­lit­i­cal buy-in from res­i­dents to get an­other ref­er­en­dum passed.

More re­zon­ing if build­ing doesn’t oc­cur

The dis­trict’s cur­rent re­zon­ing plan cov­ers the next three years. It calls for adding mo­biles and mov­ing about 750 stu­dents in or­der to bal­ance over­crowd­ing in Bluffton schools.

Yet the plan re­lies on fu­ture build­ing. If the board can’t fig­ure out a way to build ad­di­tions on schools like River Ridge Academy and May River High School or a new school en­tirely, the dis­trict could be forced to re­zone again in the fu­ture — an idea that most Bluffton par­ents and chil­dren have con­tin­u­ously re­jected.

THE CAN­DI­DATES Dis­trict 2

David Striebinger: Striebinger, a re­tired busi­ness­man, was elected to the school board in Oc­to­ber 2016. Dur­ing his time on the board, he has sided with the board’s five-mem­ber mi­nor­ity on most is­sues and has pushed for more trans­parency and fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity from the board and dis­trict as a whole.

Terry Thomas: Thomas, an­other re­tired busi­ness­man, has served as a sub­sti­tute teacher in Beau­fort County schools and an as­sis­tant foot­ball coach at Beau­fort High School. He pre­vi­ously ran for the school board in 2014, but lost to the board’s for­mer chair Bill Evans.

Dis­trict 3 Cyn­thia Gre­gory-Smalls:

Smalls, a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor who spent 32 years in the Beau­fort County School Dis­trict, was in­stalled onto the board in a spe­cial elec­tion last April. Dur­ing her time on the board, she has aligned with the board’s ma­jor­ity mem­bers.

Wil­liam Smith: Smith, owner of a pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pany, was born and raised on St. He­lena Is­land. In March 2017, Smith ran against Gre­gory-Smalls in the spe­cial elec­tion for school board, but he lost by only three votes.

Buryl Sumpter: Sumpter worked as a mor­ti­cian who has man­aged funeral homes in metro At­lanta and Greens­boro, North Carolina, also grew up on St. He­lena Is­land. In March 2017, Sumpter ran against Smith and Gre­gory-Smalls and came in third.

Natasha Robin­son: Robin­son, a na­tive Gul­lah-Geechee woman, is a per­form­ing artist who has danced and re­cited poetry at var­i­ous Low­coun­try fes­ti­vals and schools within the Beau­fort County School Dis­trict. Robin­son grad­u­ated Beau­fort High School in 1994.

Dis­trict 4

Joey Dun­kle: Dun­kle, a se­nior fire­fighter for the Sa­van­nah River Site, was elected to the school board in 2014. Dur­ing his four-year term, he has pushed the board to stick to its rules and poli­cies and has voted with the board’s mi­nor­ity bloc more than he has with ma­jor­ity mem­bers.

Tri­cia Fidrych: Fidrych spent the past 17 years teach­ing in the Beau­fort County School Dis­trict be­fore step­ping out of the class­room at the end of last school year. Her two chil­dren both at­tended Beau­fort High School.

Dis­trict 5

Stew But­ler: But­ler, founder the Beau­fort car deal­er­ship But­ler Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, spent seven years teach­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia, Mary­land and South Carolina but was forced to start driv­ing trucks on the side be­cause of his low salary.

Sarah Stuchell: Stuchell, a mar­riage and fam­ily ther­a­pist, owns a pri­vate prac­tice with of­fices on Hil­ton Head Is­land and in Beau­fort. She pre­vi­ously worked with for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss to add men­tal health coun­selors to nine schools in the dis­trict.

Richard Geier: Geier, a re­tired Army of­fi­cer, has lived in the dis­trict for a decade and has two grand­sons at­tend­ing schools in the dis­trict.

Ray John­son: John­son spent 43 years as a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, both on ac­tive duty and with the Na­tional Guard. He also worked for Mary­land’s state po­lice and for the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dis­trict 7

Rachel Wis­nef­ski: Wis­neski grew up on Hil­ton Head Is­land and grad­u­ated from Hil­ton Head Is­land High School. She has worked as an ed­u­ca­tor and ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tant for the past 10 years.

Chris Davey: Davey, the parts and ser­vice man­ager at Vaden of Beau­fort, served on the 2013 Bluffton Com­mu­nity Com­mit- tee, which was tasked with ex­am­in­ing short-term op­tions to man­age crowd­ing in Bluffton schools. His chil­dren at­tended schools within the dis­trict.

Evva An­der­son: An­der­son, a Bluffton area real­tor, has served on the school board since 2013. Dur­ing her time on the board, she most closely aligned with the ma­jor­ity-bloc that tended to sup­port for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Jeff Moss.

Dis­trict 8

John Eddy: Eddy, a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor, spent about 15 years as a teacher and prin­ci­pal at schools in Ohio and Colorado be­fore work­ing as a sales­man and di­rec­tor at var­i­ous ed­u­ca­tion-re­lated com­pa­nies.

Cathy Robine: Robine, an­other re­tired ed­u­ca­tor, spent 34 years as a teacher, prin­ci­pal and school ad­min­is­tra­tor in North Carolina and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Paul Roth: Roth served on the Beau­fort County school board from 2013 to 2016. While on the board, he was rep­ri­manded for re­fer­ring to a fel­low board mem­ber as a “hot chick” and mak­ing other dis­parag­ing com­ments about his peers.

Dis­trict 10

Peter Kris­tian: Kris­tian has been the gen­eral man­ager of Hil­ton Head Plan­ta­tion, the sec­ond largest gated com­mu­nity on the is­land, since 2000. Be­fore manag­ing com­mu­ni­ties, Kris­tian spent about 11 years teach­ing in New York and Vir­ginia.

Melvin Camp­bell: Camp­bell, a re­tired teacher of 39 years, taught math at Hil­ton Head Is­land High School for 23 years and was named the high school’s Teacher of the Year in 1999. He is a na­tive is­lan­der and his an­ces­tors have lived on Hil­ton Head Is­land since the Civil War era.

DAVID GOLD­MAN AP

The Beau­fort County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion has seven seats up for grabs in the midterm elec­tions. On Tues­day, vot­ers will have the op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the Beau­fort County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion— a board that has been ridiculed for its in­fight­ing and dys­func­tion in re­cent years.

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