Front-runner Stephanie Walker shies away from partisan politics in the NHC Board of Education race

The NHC Board of Education results are close

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Board of Education race was tight with less than one percent separating the top three candidates; a fourth seat may also be up for grabs if Bill Rivenbark wins a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

After all 43 precincts reported, the top candidates were:

Stephanie Walker (D) - 60,929

Stephanie Kraybill (R) - 60,416

Hugh McManus (D) - 59,320

Pete Wildeboer (R) - 56,130

Originally, there were three seats up for grabs on the New Hanover County Board of Education this year.

Lisa Estep, David Wortman, and Jeannette Nichols – all Republicans – were not running for re-election. Nichols gave up her seat after 20 years on the board. Wortman was elected in 2016. Estep decided to not run for re-election since joining the board back in 2012.

Bill Rivenbark, elected in 2018, may or may not be on the school board next year. He is currently running for a seat on the county commission. If he wins that race, the NHC Republican party will recommend his replacement, but if he loses, he will stay on the school board.

In the 2018 election, Democrats won three of the four seats on the school board. If more Democrats than Republicans finish in the top three, Democrats will hold the majority on the board.

Democratic Candidates

Stephanie Walker was born and raised in Wilmington. She graduated from New Hanover High and UNCW. She raised two children in the Port City who both went to Laney High. Walker and her husband started small businesses in community management and landscaping. Though she has never ran for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education, she is currently the chair of the Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens and the secretary of the NHCS Commission of African-American History. One of Walker’s big platforms for her campaign is child advocacy. Walker believes every child is different and their needs are different. Other issues Walker would like to address as a school board member including: Pre-K expansion, supporting teachers and staff, and making safety a top priority.

If you’re on the school board you have an obligation to really make sure we can help with these issues because it helps the community too," said Stephanie Walker. “I’m always a big picture thinker. I think about what prospects kids have when they grow up and they become members the community. You know, we have a responsibility, I think, to really help them as much as we can.”

With more than four decades of experience as a teacher and a school administrator, Hugh McManus decided to put his name in the running for the New Hanover County school board. His career started as a teacher at Roland-Grise Middle. McManus was then principal at Hoggard High and Topsail High before making the move to private school, becoming Cape Fear Academy’s Upper School director for over ten years before retiring. McManus believes his experience makes him uniquely qualified to be a member of the school board. Some of the focus areas of his platform include workforce career programs, access to technology for all students, and a strong counselor presence.

“Every decision needs it needs to focus on our students and our staff and what’s best for all," said McManus. "We’ve got to be accessible I truly believe, I think I’ve said this earlier but we’ve got to recapture that trust with all the issues that were before.”

Chris Meek has been teaching since 1995. He moved to Wilmington 19 years ago and began teaching at Williston Middle and then Murray Middle. Meek is now a teacher in Onslow County, but still lives in Wilmington. He has ran for the county school board twice before, but has yet to win a seat. Meek has a list of things he’d like to accomplish as a school board member; he’d like to get laptops into the hands of every single student, professional development for teachers and administrators, and return integrity to the schools in the district.

“We need a more diverse staff," said Meek. "18% of our population is African American, but I can guarantee that 18% of our teaching workforce is not African American. Our teachers should look like the students they teach.”

Republican Candidates

Stephanie Kraybill has been a substitute teacher and an active volunteer for New Hanover County Schools for more than 20 years and has experience serving on NHCS committees. She’s currently part of the districts crisis management team, school health advisory council and the board of education title IX committee. She is one of three candidates endorsed by the New Hanover County Association of Educators. Kraybill has held all local PTA officer positions and continued to serve on several school PTAs and PTOs despite not having any children in the school system.

Pete Wildeboer is a longtime educator, having served as a teacher and coach at EB Trask Junior High and Middle School for 17 years, assistant principal at South Brunswick Middle and principal at North Topsail Elementary School. On his website, he explains his leadership and experience set him apart from other candidates and having had three children in the school district himself, he understands the concerns of parents. Wildeboer lists school safety, improving student education and transportation needs as key issues to tackle on his website.

Tony McGhee was chosen back in July to fill the open slot on the board after Janice Cavenaugh dropped out of the race. He is a pastor at Liberty Bible Church, a coordinator for Legal Shield and a radio show host. McGhee is a Marine Corps veteran and has a blended family of 11 children with his wife. He currently serves as a board member for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Covenant Christian Faith International Fellowship Board of Presbytery, New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the PAG.

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