Little is certain in life, but this much we know: The Beaufort County Board of Education must change.
Tuesday’s election provides that opportunity. Voters can end years of board dysfunction. Coupled with the departure this summer of former superintendent Jeff Moss, a chance now exists to put an embarrassing chapter behind this county for good, and rebuild public trust that the old school board and superintendent frittered away.
A good start has already been made because three members of the “Moss majority” on the board decided not to seek re-election.
Now, two more of them — Evva Anderson in District 7 and Cynthia Gregory-Smalls in District 3 — need to go, and both face solid opponents.
It is crucial, for the good of the students, staff and general public, that the old way of conduct on the board and from the superintendent be eradicated.
Without new trust — with new board members and new leadership — the public support needed to solve school crowding in booming Bluffton will not be there, to use one example.
This election offers many good options for new blood on the board. It’s obvious that the public strongly agrees that change is needed because 20 candidates came forward for seven open seats on the 11-member board. That is a great sign, and in some cases it is an embarrassment of riches as top-notch candidates compete within the same district.
Our recommendations to achieve a new day with a new board are as follows:
District 2: Incumbent David Striebinger earned respect after winning a special election for an unfinished term, and he now deserves a full term. He came to the board to hold Moss accountable, and he did that without being contentious. He has the temperament, knowledge and experience to be a great player on the new board.
District 3: William Smith lost by three votes in the last election to Smalls, but he has remained involved and shows an energy and willingness to challenge the status quo. He would bring a new face to a seat that needs change.
District 4: Incumbent Joseph Dunkle has earned the vote for re-election because he has been a solid fighter for public information and transparency on the board, and has consistently stood up against a sometimes bullying majority. His opponent, Tricia Fidrych, who just finished more than 16 years as a Beaufort County classroom teacher, would be a solid addition to the board. But Dunkle has been in the trenches during the darkest days of the board’s dysfunction, championing the public’s right to know.
District 5: Richard Geier is the clear standout in a strong field of four candidates. He’s closely plugged into board and school district issues, has board leadership experience and has the right ideas on transparency and how to hire a new superintendent.
District 7: Chris Davey would bring a fresh approach to this Bluffton-area seat now held by Anderson. A new level of trust is mandatory here to get solutions to the school-crowding problems of this district. Davey has been involved as a parent and served on a community committee that tackled Bluffton’s school growth issues. He supports greater transparency, has common-sense ideas and shows an ability to work with others.
District 8: John Eddy is the stronger of two former educators in the race. He has been attending board meetings for the past two years and has sound views on what is needed to right the ship.
District 10: Hilton Head Island voters cannot go wrong in this two-person race. Melvin Campbell would bring the voice of a longtime teacher and coach in the local schools. And he would bring the native-islander, Gullah worldview as a member of one of Hilton Head Island’s oldest and most outstanding families. But Peter Kristian would offer an energetic, detail-oriented approach that would serve the board and the county well.
Beaufort County faces a drastic problem with its school district, and most of these 20 candidates stepped forward specifically to right that wrong. That is encouraging. Plenty of talent is there to start a new day. Please vote.