The Beaufort County school board has two new representatives following Tuesday’s election, both of them critics of Superintendent Jeff Moss and staunch opponents of the 1 percent sales tax that failed on the same ballot.
The new members, according to preliminary election results, are Patricia Felton-Montgomery for Okatie’s District 6 seat and Christina Gwozdz for Bluffton’s District 9 seat. They each replace board members who aligned themselves with a majority that has backed Moss since his nepotism scandal last fall, a controversy that resulted in Moss admitting to wrongdoing and being fined by the S.C. Ethics Commission.
“Clearly my message resonated well with the voters,” Gwozdz said late Tuesday, as she watched the results come in with friends and family. “Time for a change.”
However, current member Michael Rivers, perhaps the body’s biggest critic of the superintendent, also won a separate race to represent District 121 in the S.C. House of Representatives, meaning he will leave the school board by January.
That leaves the school board with just a slight shift in power once the new members take office in February. There is currently a 7-4 majority for most votes recommended by Moss. For a brief time, before the special election to replace Rivers, the board will have an even 5-5 split.
Felton-Montgomery, a former educator with a doctorate degree in educational administration, beat incumbent Paul Roth for the Okatie seat, with 59.71 percent of the vote. Her win was hardly an upset — Roth frequently described himself as the biggest proponent of the educational sales tax, and he came under fire in June for calling one of his fellow board members a “hot chick.”
In the four-way race to represent District 9, Gwozdz, a local doctor and mother of three Bluffton High School graduates, won 43.4 percent of the vote. Laura Bush, the current representative and a 26-year veteran of the board, did not run for re-election.
Gwozdz bested challengers Bridgette Frazier (25.41 percent), Bill Fletcher (15.51 percent) and Chris Epps (15.45 percent).
The votes will be officially verified by the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections this week.