Seven of the 11 seats on the Beaufort County Board of Education are to be filled with the Nov. 2 election, but only voters in northern Beaufort County will see competitive races on the ballot.
Four seats will be held onto by incumbents who are running unopposed. The Hilton Head Island District 2 seat will be filled by a write-in candidate because no one presented enough valid signatures to get on the ballot. Julie Bell and Rita Hart announced as write-in candidates.
But the two remaining seats offer opportunities to bring new faces and new ideas to the board.
In District 5 on St. Helena Island, incumbent Michael Rivers is being challenged by Faye Alston, and it's a good thing. Rivers has been on the board for 12 years. That's long enough to try to make the changes St. Helena needs. It's time for new leadership.
Alston brings fresh energy to the task, and she is not afraid to be visible and accessible, and thereby accountable, to the public.
Alston has the special insight of a parent with two children still in the local schools. She is active, involved and visible in trying to improve the schools. She is chairman of the School Improvement Council at Lady's Island Elementary School, where she also has served three years as president of the PTO. She has served on the School Improvement Council at St. Helena Elementary School and on several school district committees. She also brings the perspective of a former substitute teacher.
Alston seems to be a person with backbone and a willingness to work with the system, as well as challenge it.
Voters in District 7, covering Lady's Island, Dataw Island and Pigeon Point, will definitely put a new face on the school board because incumbent Jim Bequette did not seek re-election.
Voters have a choice between two outstanding candidates.
Bill Evans gave 24 years to the Beaufort County School District in his four-decade public education career. His children are graduates of the local schools, and he knows well the people, the communities and the issues.
Robert White has a similar background, working on the front lines of public education in northern Virginia before retiring here eight years ago. He was principal of a very successful high school for 17 years, and stresses the high expectations and proactive role each school must take to engage the community it serves.
We give a slight edge to White because he brings new perspectives to the school district. And during his 36 years in education, his district administrative experience is a tick higher than his opponent's. He reached the assistant superintendent level, in charge of administration and human resources for a 25,000-plus school district with 3,800 employees. This would be a good jolt of new blood for a school district that needs it.