Candidate filing officially closed Friday for school board elections, and several races are contested in York and Clover.
The at-large York school board seat held by Shirley Harris features a three-way campaign that includes Harris, Shirley Hamilton and Diane Howell.
In Clover, two races are contested. In Seat 2 race, Sherri Ciurlik is being challenged by Michael Nagy. Clover’s Seat 5, held by Rob Wallace, features a three-way contest that includes Wallace, Jamie Henrickson and Ken Wilson.
Four other school board elections are uncontested.
In York, Seat 2 and Seat 4 incumbents Mike Smith and Betty Johnson, respectively, have no challengers.
In Clover, Joe Gordon, who serves in Seat 1, and Mack McCarter, who serves in an at-large seat, are both unopposed.
School board elections are non-partisan. Election Day is Nov. 4.
York school board race
Harris has served on the York school board for 16 years, including as chairperson, and easily defeated a challenger for her at-large seat in the 2010 election. She could not be reached for further comment earlier this week.
Howell, who retired in 2013 as principal of York Comprehensive High School, said she filed to seek the at-large school board seat in York because she wanted to be involved in education again.
“I miss it a lot, and I feel like I’ve been trained to know what’s going on and I’d really like to continue working to make sure things are better for our kids,” said Howell, who worked as a teacher and administrator for 41 years.
Howell lives in Hickory Grove, and said she also plans to apply for appointment by the York school board to Seat 5, recently vacated by Melissa Patterson, who moved. Seat 5 includes the Hickory Grove area.
Because the election filing deadline for the at-large seat is sooner than the application deadline for Seat 5, Howell said she also filed for election to improve her chances of earning a seat on the board.
Howell said the district’s employees are a priority, and she is concerned with the number of employees the district has lost. “We’ve got to make our people feel important,” she said.
She added: “You do that by communication. You listen to people.”
Hamilton, who lives in Bullocks Creek, is a retired social worker and certified mental health therapist who worked with Rock Hill and York students through Catawba Mental Health.
Hamilton said she’s concerned about the state of education in South Carolina and especially in Western York County.
Hamilton said she’s concerned that Western York County has been overlooked in terms of resources. “The schools don’t have enough resources,” she said. “I want to address the reasons and what we can do about that.”
Hamilton said she wants to advocate for the equal distribution of educational resources and direct education tax dollars to classroom teachers.
Clover school board race
On the Clover school board, Wallace was appointed to Seat 5, replacing Barbara Parish, who died Feb. 19, 2013.
Wallace said his advantage in his first election race is already having board experience and “knowing how things work behind the scenes and how tough it is to run a school district and keeping all the policies up to date.”
Wallace, a Clover High School graduate, has two children at Crowders Creek Elementary School. “I want to make sure everything keeps going in a good positive direction,” Wallace said.
He said he’s impressed with the board’s fiscal management and “the way the board has saved and kept taxes in line with the area.”
Wallace is employed as a manufacturer representative and industrial sales. He has served on the Clover Chamber of Commerce and as coach for recreation leagues and helped with The Landing swim team.
Ken Wilson, a retired paramedic and past president and EMS director for River Hill/Lake Wylie EMS, is president of Lake Wylie Athletic Association.
“I think we have an excellent school system with top notch teachers and faculty,” he said. “I would serve as a strong voice for the Lake Wylie area. My experience working with over 1,000 children a year gives me a better opportunity to listen to the community.”
His two children graduated from Clover High School, and he has one grandchild in the district. The $67 million bond referendum approved in March by voters spurred Wilson to run.
“I don’t like the past decisions that they’ve made,” he said, questioning the YMCA aquatic center deal and why it took so long bring stadiums into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I’ve been working in the community for 20 years and talk to a lot of people, and we’re not represented as well as we could have been,” Wilson said. “I think it can be better.
“I don’t like to see my tax money wasted,” he said.
Wilson also is lifetime member of Smyrna Fire Department as a found member.
Henrickson said the main reason her family moved here five years ago was for school district. But she said, “it’s been going in the wrong direction.
“I’d like to provide a positive direction for our future district and cut wasteful spending,” Henrickson said. “I’m concerned about explosive growth and want to make sure there are plans in place to deal with that.”
Henrickson said she’s “frustrated with some of the decisions coming out of the board.”
Now, Henrickson, who has a background in financing, said she has time to devote to volunteering on the school board because she works from home for a tech company in Charlotte and sets her own hours.
Henrickson, who has two children at Crowders Creek Elementary School, has served as a room parent and volunteers at the school.
In the Seat 2 Clover race, Ciurlik is being challenged by Nagy.
“That’s a good thing more people are interested and want to be involved,” said Ciurlik, who has served one term. “I think there are still things I feel passionately about I want to accomplish, and I have a better understanding of how things work than I did four years ago.”
Ciurlik, mother of three, has two students in Clover schools and one graduated from Clover High School in June. She has served as PTA president at Crowders Creek Elementary School, PTSO president at Oakridge Middle School, formerly a board member for Clover Area Assistance Center and now volunteers, and Clover LEAF.
Nagy, in US Airways operations management with three children in Clover schools, served on the Moon Area School District school board, outside of Pittsburgh, and on the redistricting committee there before moving to Lake Wylie. He said he decided run because he’s concerned about falling test scores and the bond referendum.
“I want to make sure we’re ready for the future whether in academics or technically.”
As for the bond referendum, he’s concerned district taxpayers are funding the planned aquatic center that will be run by the YMCA, which he is member of, and the uncertainty of what the district is going to look like in the future.
“I’m very happy with what’s going on but uneased by the referendum,” Nagy said. “We’re unsure where our children are going to school and not sure how the district is going look.”
He said he’s also concerned by the divisiveness of the referendum and the vote by precincts for or against the bond falling along geographic lines.
“I definitely feel and see the separation, and how it affected Lake Wylie and Clover areas,” Nagy said.
In April, a Clover school board redistricting plan was approved by the S.C. General Assembly to prevent the school district from facing a lawsuit. The Clover school board has five districts with residency requirements and two at-large seats. Voting is at-large for all seven seats.
The new plan includes three districts in the Lake Wylie area that extend west toward Clover, one district in the central area that covers most of the town of Clover and one large district in the western part of the school district.
Candidates must live in the district in which they plan to run, unless they would like to run for an at-large seat, in which case they can live anywhere in the school district.