Family therapist wants to help the Beaufort County school board find ‘common ground’


Hoping to use her background in the mental health field to improve the Beaufort County Board of Education, a marriage and family therapist has filed for a spot on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Sarah Stuchell, 40, filed Monday for the District 5 seat, which represents Burton and portions of Beaufort.

Stuchell runs her own private practice with offices on Hilton Head Island and in Beaufort. She believes her skill set will benefit the board and the district as a whole, she said.

“When I do family therapy, I’m used to working with multiple different perspectives and finding common ground for the greater good, so that (is) what I’d like to do,” Stuchell said.

Stuchell, will be up against retired Army officer Richard Geier and Ray Johnson, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot.

The seat is held by board member Geri Kinton, who has said she is not running for re-election.

Stuchell said she found out about the open District 5 board position from a client and decided it would be a great opportunity to get involved.

Sarah Stuchell

When Stuchell moved to the area two years ago, she started working as the director of clinical services at the Coastal Empire Mental Health Center in Beaufort. Shortly after starting the position, she worked with district employees, including Superintendent Jeff Moss, to add mental health counselors to nine schools in the district, she said.

I’ve worked with teachers; I’ve worked with students and their parents; and I’ve worked with some of the resource officers at the schools, too,” she said.

Stuchell has lived in Beaufort for a little more than two years. She is a single mother of a 5-year-old boy who will start kindergarten at Beaufort Academy this year.

“I think culturally (our society) is shifting to focus on mental health issues ... and I just feel like Beaufort County could do so much more for our kids and teaching them lifelong skills like how to handle their emotions,” she said.

Who else has filed?

Seven of the board’s 11 seats are up for grabs in the November election. As of Friday:

District 1: Seat held by board member Earl Campbell is up for election in 2020.

District 2: Longtime Lady’s Island resident Terry Thomas filed in April. Board member David Striebinger filed for re-election in July.

District 3: Board member Cynthia Gregory-Smalls filed for re-election in March. No one else has filed.

District 4: Board member Joseph Dunkle filed for re-election in July. No else has filed.

District 5: Two retired military men — Richard Geier and Ray Johnson — filed to run in March. Sarah Stuchell, a licensed marriage and family therapist, filed in July. The seat is held by board member Geri Kinton, who said she plans to vacate when her term ends.

District 6: Seat held by board member John Dowling is up for election in 2020.

District 7: Hilton Head native Rachel Wisnefski and Bluffton father Chris Davey announced they are running for the seat this week. Board member Evva Anderson said she has not decided if she will run for re-election.

District 8: Former educator John Eddy announced he would run in July. Board member Mary Cordray said she has not decided if she will run again.

District 9: Seat held by board member Christina Gwozdz is up for election in 2020.

District 10: Peter Kristian, the manager of Hilton Head Plantation, filed for the seat in late June. Board member Bill Payne said he has not decided if he will run again.

District 11: Seat held by board member JoAnn Orischak is up for election in 2020.

Those interested in running for school board have until noon Aug. 15 to file for candidacy.

To find which board district represents you, visit