Past Teacher of the Year files for a Hilton Head seat on Beaufort Co. school board

Melvin Campbell
Melvin Campbell

Aiming to hold all school district employees and administrators accountable for student achievement, a Hilton Head native islander and longtime educator filed for a seat on the Beaufort County Board of Education.

Melvin Campbell, 69, filed Monday for the board’s District 10 seat, which represents parts of northern and mid-Hilton Head Island.

“I think I can help create a forum of cooperation where we all can work toward common goals and improve each and every one of our schools, so that each child has a fair chance of achieving his or her maximum potential,” Campbell said Monday.

The District 10 seat is held by majority board member Bill Payne, who announced Sunday he will not run for re-election.

“It has been an honor, delight and privilege to serve my district and Beaufort County ...” Payne wrote in a statement. “I’m hopeful someone will be elected to represent the students and citizens of District 10 and Beaufort County well.”

Campbell will face Peter Kristian, the general manager of Hilton Head Plantation, in the Nov. 6 election.

A retired teacher of 39 years, Campbell started his career in Boston before moving back and teaching math at Hilton Head Island High School for 23 years. In 1999, he was named the high school’s Teacher of the Year.

Campbell has served on numerous organization boards over the years, including as a board member on the Wilborn Scholarship Fund, which raises money for local graduates who are headed to college. He is a member of the NAACP and the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association.

Campbell’s ancestors lived on Hilton Head Island since the Civil War era. In his free time, Campbell helps with his family’s business, Gullah Heritage Tours, where he enjoys educating people about the Island’s Gullah Heritage, he said.

Campbell said his perspective as a longtime teacher, coupled with his native islander roots, will allow him to bring a “worldly perspective” to the board.

“I hope to bring together more love in the classroom and more detailed supervision of our educational programs from the school administration downward,” he said. “I’d like to make everyone accountable for their particular role in the education of our students from the superintendent down to the maintenance crews.”

In particular, Campbell said he would like to see the Beaufort County School District increase its early childhood education programs and make sure administrators are keeping up with ongoing issues, for instance monitoring the mercury vapor levels recently detected at four Beaufort County schools.

Who else has filed?

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

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. St. Helena businessman William Smith filed in mid-July. Mortician Buryl Garnett Sumpter and Gullah Geechee performing artist Natasha D. Robinson filed in late July.

District 4: Board member Joseph Dunkle filed for re-election in early July. Retired Beaufort County educator Tricia Fidrych filed in mid-July.

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 will not run for re-election.

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

District 7: Hilton Head native Rachel Wisnefski and Chris Davey, parts and service manager at Grainger Nissan of Beaufort, filed to run in July. Board member Evva Anderson filed in August for re-election.

District 8: Former educators John Eddy and Cathy Robine both filed for the seat. Board member Mary Cordray said she has not decided whether 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. Melvin Campbell, a longtime retired educator and native islander, filed in August. Board member Bill Payne recently announced he will not run for re-election.

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 Wednesday to file for candidacy.

To find which board district represents you, visit