Richland One school board candidates speak at forum ahead of special election on New Year’s Eve

Richland One school board candidates speak at forum ahead of special election on New Year’s Eve

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - United Way of the Midlands, along with the National Pan-Hellenic Council at Columbia, hosted a nonpartisan candidate forum for the at-large seat on Richland School District One’s school board Thursday evening.

Just over 50 people attended to hear the discussion.

There are five candidates asking for your vote to hold the next at-large seat on the Richland One School board. Each candidate brings a different background and set of skills to the table -- including a former college president, counselor, pastor, educator, and lawyer -- to help lead one of the largest school districts here in the Midlands.

As each candidate took the microphone Thursday evening, they had a chance to share why they should win the public’s vote.

Dr. Johnny Ray Noble, a current pastor, former teacher, and college professor, said he’d like to see the district be more involved with the community.

“The skills that you have as a pastor is, number one, communications skills, number two, hanging out with the community. Finding out what the community is thinking, finding out how they feel about certain things, and then advocate for them,” Noble said.

Dr. Lady June Cole, who has held multiple positions in education for over 30 years and is the former president of Allen University, shared what she’d like to see change in the district.

“What I’d like to really see is that schools get to be redesigned. And when I say that, I mean we need to focus on our young people. Get them excited about going to school again, from K-12,” Cole said.

Michelle Drayton, a licensed counselor, said she wants to bring mental health to the front of schools.

“I want to make sure that mental health is integrated into the schools and that teachers are trained on social and emotional learning. That they can identify when a child is having anger or anxiety or depression and that they can be assessed properly if we put licensed counselors and behavioral intervention in schools,” Drayton said.

Ashlye Wilkerson began her career as an educator in Richland One in 2007. She is a business owner and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Winthrop University. If elected, she will start by improving teacher retention.

“I want to be able to champion the support of teachers, find out what their needs are, find out ways we can better assist and serve them, and develop policy to that end,” Wilkerson said.

Jonathan Milling, a lawyer and a Richland One district parent of four, said though he doesn’t have an education background, his skills will benefit the district.

“Making sure that I’m asking the tough questions that need to be asked to make sure that we are properly spending the government’s funds, making sure that we are utilizing the programs, and making sure frankly that we are as transparent as possible,” Milling said.

Regardless of background, all five candidates are asking you to cast a vote Dec. 31 at your polling location.

Terry Graham, interim director of elections for the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, said there is a concern for this election regarding not only voter turnout but not having enough poll workers at each precinct since this election will be held on New Year’s Eve.

According to Graham, the seat became available in October, after Darrell Black resigned at a board meeting.

Graham said Election Law 7-13-190, Section C states the election must be set for the 13th Tuesday after the vacancy occurs. If it falls on a state holiday, it has to be held on the following Tuesday, which in this case, makes this election fall on New Year’s Eve.

Graham said he is pushing absentee for all voters who know they will be out of town for the holiday season.

For more information on where and how you can vote, click here. If you’d like to sign up to be a poll worker, head over to the office on 2020 Hampton St. for more information.

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