Elections

Beaufort Co. man tries again for school board seat. The first time, a dog ate his papers

Beaufort County school board candidate Terry Thomas will run in November 2018 for the District 2 seat
Beaufort County school board candidate Terry Thomas will run in November 2018 for the District 2 seat

A longtime Lady's Island resident who ran for a seat on the Beaufort County school board once before will give it another go in November's election.

Terry Thomas, 76, recently filed paperwork to run in the Nov. 6 election for the board's District 2 seat.

Board member David Striebinger currently represents District 2, which covers parts of Lady's Island, Beaufort and St. Helena Island. Striebinger said Thursday he has not made an official decision, but is leaning toward running again.

Thomas said his platform will focus on fiscal responsibility, strengthening student disciplinary policies, putting in place better tutoring programs in every school, reducing teachers' paperwork and lowering the high school dropout rate.

"I'm upset with how the current board and how the district spends its money," he said, offering the example of the district outsourcing the hiring of substitute teachers to an outside company, which he said was not a good financial decision.

Thomas moved to Lady's Island about 20 years ago after a long corporate career in sales and marketing. He said he was a substitute teacher in Beaufort County schools for 14 years and an assistant football coach at Beaufort High School for about six years. He said he tutored athletes and coached in Jasper County as well, some of whom encouraged him to run.

"My wife said, 'get out of the house and go help kids again,'" he said, referring to his taking a break from coaching and teaching after a surgery last year. "I just want to help kids again."

Thomas ran as a Democrat for a state Senate seat in 2007, but lost to a Republican. He ran for school board as a write-in candidate in 2014, but lost to Bill Evans.

He also announced in 2010 that he would run for a school board seat, but the dog ate his homework.

Really.

Paperwork Thomas collected to appear on the ballot was lying on his counter the night before it was due to the county elections board. He stepped outside to check the mail and his 8-month-old puppy, Spencer, got hold of the 200 signatures he had collected from constituents and chewed them up.

Spencer is still around and still chomping on paper, but Thomas doesn't need to worry about a similar situation during this election cycle.

In 2016, an amendment ratified by the S.C. General Assembly eliminated the need for school board candidates to gather hundreds of signatures for their petitions.

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 3: Board member Cynthia Gregory-Smalls, who represents Lady’s Island, St. Helena Island and parts of Beaufort, filed for re-election in March. No one else has filed.

District 4: No one has filed to run. Board member Joseph Dunkle said Thursday that he has not decided if he will run again.

District 5: Two retired military men — Richard Geier and Ray Johnson — have filed to run for the seat that represents Burton and portions of Beaufort. The seat currently is held by board member Geri Kinton, who said last fall 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: No one has filed. Board member Evva Anderson did not return two calls for comment Thursday and Friday.

District 8: No one has filed. Board member Mary Cordray said at a Hilton Head Island town hall in February that 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: No one has filed to run. Board member Bill Payne told the newspapers in March that 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 https://bit.ly/2FyQiNW.

Kelly Meyerhofer: 843-706-8136, @KellyMeyerhofer
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