NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Big changes appear to be in store on the New Hanover county school board. The board has been under a Republican control for years but three Democrats will be taking over the four open seats.
The majority of current New Hanover county school board members have held their seat for 20 years or more. But the sitting chair of the school board, Ed Higgins, lost his bid for re-election during the primary, giving political newcomers hope of getting a seat on the board.
With 43 of 43 precincts reporting, Democratic candidates Stefanie Adams, Judy Justice and Nelson Beaulieu took the top three spots, followed by Republican Bill Rivenbark.
Stefanie Adams (D)has worked in the education field for 15 years, and has a son in kindergarten in the NHCS system. Adams would like to see increased funding for mental and behavioral health in our schools, as well as 9th grade centers to relieve overcrowding in local high schools.
She thinks the current school board is in need of some fresh faces, saying some on the board have served for too long and are using outdated techniques to address issues in our schools.
Judy Justice (D) is a career educator, having worked for 8 years as a social studies teacher at Laney High School before going on to work as a principal and central office administrator in other parts of the state. A Democrat, she says she is dismayed by cronyism, nepotism, and a lack of transparency and accountability in the New Hanover County Schools system.
She would like to see more economic integration in our schools, and thinks 3 of the incumbents running for re-election have served for too long on the school board. Justice also believes there are too many charter schools in North Carolina, and they have expanded at the expense of traditional charter schools.
Nelson Beaulieu (D) is a veteran, an instructor at Cape Fear Community College, and a father of two elementary-aged girls. The political newcomer is one of 4 Democratic candidates challenging the all-Republican New Hanover County School Board. He is an advocate for delayed-implementation redistricting, a $500 stipend for elementary school teachers to spend on classroom supplies, and replacing the school system’s current Title IX coordinator, in light of how NHCS has handled complaints about sexual assault and harassment.
He feels like there is a lack of communication between the current school board and the public, and would like to see school board meetings held in various schools throughout the county to increase public access and participation.
Bill Rivenbark (R) is a political newcomer, but received more votes than any incumbent during the Republican primary for New Hanover County School Board. He informally campaigned with first-term school board member Bruce Shell, and shares a desire for improved transparency between the school board and the public.
He said he is also concerned some of the long-time school board members were not receptive to comments and concerns from teachers. Rivenbark works for the New Hanover County ABC board, and is the brother of Wilmington City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark.