County school board will look dramatically different
Voters sent a clear message to the Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday: They want sweeping change.
Seven of the 11 school board seats were up for grabs in the election. And six new members were chosen to fill the open spots.
While four incumbents ran for re-election, only District 2’s David Striebinger eked out a win. Those who lost their seats were District 3’s Cynthia Gregory-Smalls, District 4’s Joseph Dunkle and District 7’s Evva Anderson.
After two failed bond referendums that would have paid for school construction projects, an ongoing FBI investigation involving the construction of two Bluffton schools and the exit of the school district’s controversial superintendent,
‘‘ I’VE BEEN OPTIMISTIC BECAUSE I THINK WE HAVE A CHANCE NOW TO GET BACK TO THE FUNDAMENTALS AND RESET EVERYTHING. David Striebinger, District 2
Jeff Moss, new leadership is the fresh start the community wants, say council members.
Striebinger said he sees the large-scale turnover as “a signal that the people want dramatic change.”
“I’ve been optimistic because I think we have a chance now to get back to the fundamentals and reset everything,” he said.
Dunkle, who lost the District 4 seat to former Beaufort County teacher Tricia Fidrych, said he saw the results as a message that voters were looking for a change and wanted the incumbents out.
“I think the change they were looking for was exactly what I’ve been doing the past four years, but unfortunately that didn’t make it to the surface due to some other board members,” he said Wednesday.
Fidrych said she knocked on at least 400 doors leading up to the election.
In talking with residents, Fidrych said she believed her experience as a teacher and the current board’s interpersonal relationship issues gave her the leg up on Dunkle.
“The people of District 4 embraced the opportunity to speak with me about their concerns and were open to my candidacy and I thank them so much for that,” she said.
According to the unofficial results posted Wednesday morning, here were the results in each district:
District 2: Incumbent David Striebinger won the race with 50.77 percent of the vote and challenger Terry Thomas received 48.11 percent.
District 3: William Smith won with 51.24 percent of the vote. Incumbent Cynthia Gregory-Smalls was second with 31.16 percent. Natasha Robinson was third with 11.87 percent. And, Buryl Garnett Sumpter was fourth with 5.16 percent.
District 4: Tricia Fidrych won the race with 60.07 percent of the vote and incumbent Joseph Dunkle received 39 percent.
District 5: Richard Geier won the race with 30.99 percent of the votes and Stew Butler received 29.76 percent. Sarah Stuchell came in third with 22.40 percent, and Ray Johnson took fourth with 15.98 percent.
District 7: Rachel Wisnefski won the race with 36.31 percent of the vote. Chris Davey and Evva Anderson followed closely behind with 32.73 percent and 30.31 percent of the vote, respectively.
District 8: Cathy Robine won the race with 54.08 percent of the vote. John Eddy came in second with 29.56 percent and Paul Roth was third with 16.05 percent.
District 10: Melvin Campbell won the race with 50.49 percent of the vote. Peter Kristian received 49.13 percent.In three of the districts, the margins came down to less than 150 votes.
Striebinger beat his opponent Terry Thomas by 121 votes, according to unofficial results.
Melvin Campbell of District 10 was chosen over Peter Kristian by 50 votes. And, Richard Geier of District 5 beat his closest opponent Stew Butler by a mere 41 points.
Geier said Wednesday morning that he’s “not celebrating yet” due to the small margin between Butler and himself.
“Who knows if that could change,” he said. “... When the election commission posts its official results, and if I’m lucky enough to win, then I’ll celebrate.”
The results are not official until they are certified by Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, which will occur in the coming days.
Voters stand in line to cast ballotse Tuesday morning at the Thomas C. Barnwell Administration Building on Okatie Highway for Chechessee Precincts 1 and 2. Poll clerk Al Gerber said before the polling location opened, there were about 50 people already in line.