Voters in the York school district can choose from two lifelong educators with strong Western York County community ties in the Nov. 4 election for the at-large seat.
We endorse Diane Howell, retired principal of York Comprehensive High School, in the school board’s only contested race this year.
Howell is challenging Shirley Harris, a retired York elementary school teacher and librarian who has served on the board for 16 years, including one term as chairwoman.
Howell retired in 2013 as principal of York Comprehensive High School after a 41-year career as a teacher and school administrator.
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We really don’t think voters could go wrong with either of these candidates. Both have proven records of service and leadership with the York school district and in the community.
But Howell makes some valid points in her campagin platform. She has called for the district to devote more attention to staff retention after it replaced more than 60 teachers and other employees this fall. Employees are any school district’s most valuable resource, and significant turnover can be costly.
Howell also has expressed the need for the school board to do a better job of listening to the public and explaining its decisions after several contentious meetings last year that surrounded the painful decision to cut $1.9 million from the school district budget and eliminate 22 jobs.
Overall, Harris and Howell have remarkably similar backgrounds. Both grew up in the close-knit, rural enclave of Hickory Grove, and Howell still lives there, while Harris lives in York.
Both have graduate-degree level training in education and years of experience working with students and with school district procedure and policy.
Harris is an adult-education teacher for Tri-District Adult Education, which serves the York, Clover and Fort Mill districts. She taught elementary school and worked as a school librarian for 31 years in Greenville County, Rock Hill and York schools.
Harris has a strong record on the school board, and voters have chosen her four times over other challengers. She has shown that she’s not afraid to speak up. And she has tried to be an advocate for classroom teachers and understands the challenges that they face.
Howell argues that her experience in kindergarten to 12th-grade education is more recent and broader, and that she has served time as both a teacher and as a district administrator.
She served as principal of YCHS from 2002 until her retirement in 2013; she led the opening of York’s new high school in 2010.
Howell taught science and later home economics for 24 years, first in Gaffney and then in York. She served as assistant director of York’s Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center for six years before becoming YCHS principal.
Both candidates are keenly aware of the daunting task of meeting what is likely to be the district’s greatest challenge: the growing demands of educating students on a limited budget of state revenue and local taxes.
Harris and Howell both bring valuable experience and knowledge to the board, but we believe Howell offers a perspective that may benefit the district’s employees and the board’s constituents.