‘Turnaround agent’ wants Beaufort Co. school board to be seen as a positive influence

A retired educator of 34 years who says she has a reputation as a “turnaround agent” is hoping to help steer the Beaufort County Board of Education in the right direction.

Cathy Robine, of Hilton Head Plantation, filed Monday for the school board’s District 8 seat in the Nov. 6 election.

“Since I’ve been to more school board meetings as a principal and administrator than most of the (other candidates), I have a pretty strong feeling of how effective school boards should operate,” she said Monday.

The District 8 seat, which represents portions of Hilton Head Island and the Bluffton area, is held by Mary Cordray.

Cordray, the budget director at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, was elected in 2013 and has served as both the vice chair and chair of the board. In spite of Wednesday’s filing deadline, she said late Monday that she had not decided whether she would run again.

Robine, 63, is set to face off against another former educator and businessman, John Eddy, who said he hopes to help the board provide more financial oversight for the Beaufort County School District.

After spending 34 years as a teacher, principal and school administrator in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Robine retired in 2011 and moved to Hilton Head with her husband.

Until January, Robine served on the board of the local nonprofit Second Helpings.

If elected, Robine said she would bring a calming influence to the board in order to create a “sense of community and trust where everyone works together for the best interest of the community.”

“I’d like the community to see the board as a positive influence,” she said. “I think right now people in the community feel that the board is not effective and not working well together.”

Robine said she considers herself a “curriculum expert,” so her main focus as a board member would be to make sure each student in the county is receiving the best education possible.

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 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 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 have both filed for the race. 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 reelection.

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