Rowan County voters re-elect three BOE members, two newcomers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

Rowan County voters signaled approval to three incumbents on the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education Tuesday night, but also elected two newcomers.

Incumbents Kevin Jones, Dean Hunter and Lynn Marsh fended off challenges from opponents to retain their seats on the board. Meanwhile, Sabrina Harris defeated former board member Jean Kennedy in one of the closest races of the night.

The race for seat 4 was the only one that featured fresh faces as Jimmy Greene Jr. beat out Ebony Rivers Boyd and Myra Tannehill for the seat vacated by Travis Allen, who launched a successful bid for Rowan County sheriff.

Seat 1 (North)

After the final votes were tallied, Kevin Jones defeated two challengers, Eddie Spillman and Rashid Muhammad, for the northern seat of the RSS board. Jones received 18,673 votes (48.21%). Spillman earned 14,449 votes (37.38%) while Muhammad earned 5,359 votes (13.87%)

Before his election on the school board in 2018, Jones was elected to the Spencer Board of Alderman four times from 2011- 2017. He was chairman of the school board twice in 2020 and 2021.

“I am excited to win and get another four years, and want to get things moving in the right direction,” Jones said. “It’s been a tough four years to be on the board, and there are all sorts of hurdles that we are up against.”

Jones remarked that teacher, principal and administrator retention is at the top of his list.

“Getting the right people in the right spots and compensating them correctly where they can do the things they are best at is what I want to do,” Jones said.

With the growth facing the county, Jones sees opportunity.

“We have had some opportunity for new capital school buildings and improving our current facilities that we have,” Jones said. “The (increased revenue) will allow us to rethink education as a whole in Rowan County.”

Seat 2 (South)

Dean Hunter retained his position on the RSS board after capturing 66.49% of the vote. His 25,498 votes handily defeated Ruth Marohn’s 12,715.

“I think our voters appreciate conservative values and protecting our students and our schools from things that we’re seeing in other counties,” Hunter said. “There are some issues like CRT (Critical Race Theory), things like that, that people are very leery of entering our system. And I feel like we’ve done a good job of keeping those things out and staying focused on education.”

Hunter is proud of his track record, specifically the hiring of Dr. Kelly Withers, the recently appointed school superintendent.

“I think people appreciate us hiring a superintendent who is one of us, who is local, who is stable, and that seemingly the community is behind,” Hunter said. “We’ve had a lot of volatility over the last year and a half.”

Hunter acknowledged that the work is only just getting started.

“We do have challenges,” Hunter said. “It’s pretty evident that being out of the classroom, during COVID, was obviously something that affected (Rowan County) and the nation negatively … I keep throwing out the number 35% of our third graders read proficiently according to the state test. So we do have some challenges.”

Seat 4 (West)

Jimmy Greene Jr., defeated Ebony Rivers Boyd and Myra Tannehill in the race for RSS Board seat 4. Greene collected 63.12% of the electorate. His 25,173 votes more than tripled Boyd’s (8,074) and nearly quadrupled Tannehill’s (6,514).

After the election, Greene indicated that he heard a lot of concern on the campaign trail about keeping test scores high. “What I heard a lot of was the test scores,” Greene said.

Maintaining a competitive atmosphere for public schools is a priority for Greene.

“We’re losing students to charter schools, public schools and private schools,” Greene said.

As a coach in the school system, Greene can fall back on one thing he knows for sure.

“I think (voters) knew of the personal contact I had, having been a coach for the last 12 years,” Greene said. “I’ve interacted a lot with staff, principals, teachers, even a lot of the students and a lot of my players, and I’ve seen a lot of their plight. I see what they have, what they’re good at, and what they have trouble with.”

Seat 6 (Special)

For the RSS seat 6, Sabrina Harris defeated Jean Kennedy in a close race. Harris commanded 19,328 votes (53.84 percent), while Kennedy cornered 16,158 (45.01 percent).

Attempts to contact Harris on Tuesday and Wednesday following the election were unsuccessful.

Seat 7 (Southeast)

The RSS board seat 7 race was also decided by a slim margin. Lynn Marsh won 40.61 percent of the votes, with a total of 15,606. The race saw Marsh defeat Brad Jenkins and Michael C. Chapman, who received 12,753 (33.18 percent) and 9,922 (25.82 percent), respectively.

Marsh indicated that her interactions with voters pointed to concerns over safety and curriculum within the schools, the latter of which she is making a prominent feature in her upcoming term.

“We have been working really hard on revamping the discipline policy,” Marsh said. “We have got tiers of consequence for various behaviors which establish a guideline for administrators to follow.”

Marsh spent a decade as a special education teacher in China Grove and two decades as a principal in nearby Cabarrus County. Now, she is a professor at Catawba College.

She indicated a desire to see a heavy emphasis put on ensuring nurse accessibility for each school within the district as well as a crisis management team.

“I’d like to see a crisis team for each school made up of staff, parents, and administration, with a role to play in the event of a crisis,” Marsh said. “Right now, they have one person who would take charge, but I would like to see a whole-team approach.”

All results in the board of education elections are unofficial until they are certified by the Rowan County Board of Elections.