School board races set
Candidates have filed and the races are set for school board elections this November.
Races for local Boards of Education have become hotbeds for political and cultural issues, many of which have little to do with day-to-day classroom instruction — critical race theory, LGBTQ rights, religion in schools, parental oversight and more.
What’s more, Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) recently introduced a bill that would make school board and municipal elections partisan in Haywood County. While the bill has fallen short for now, there is a possibility it could be taken up by the General Assembly this year, or reintroduced next year. Of the Smoky Mountain News’ four county coverage area, only Swain County currently has a partisan election for its school board.
Jackson County already held its school board elections and is currently in the midst of a runoff for its district two seat between incumbent Abigail Clayton and newcomer Lisa Buchanan. That Election Day will be July 26.
The filing period for school board races in Haywood, Macon and Swain counties ended July 15. Those races will be decided during November’s General Election.
The Haywood County school board is made up of nine members serving four-year terms. This year, seats for the Bethel, Clyde, Crabtree-Ironduff and Fines Creek districts are up for election. Both Jimmy Rogers in Clyde and Steven Kirkpatrick in Fines Creek will run unopposed, as no one filed to compete for their seat.
Jimmy Rogers has been on the Haywood County School Board for 22 years and is currently serving on the Policy and Building and Grounds Committees. Steven Kirkpatrick has been on the board for 20 years. He currently serves on the Building and Grounds Committee and is chairman of the Special Issues Committee.
In the Bethel district, Mike Graham has filed to run against incumbent Larry Henson, who has been on the board for 12 years. Henson currently serves on the Finance Committee.
The Crabtree-Ironduff district will see a newcomer to the board and the sole female on the board regardless of which candidate wins the election. Current board member Bobby Rogers did not file to run again, however, Brooke Haynes and Marla Morris both filed to compete to fill the seat.
The Macon County school board is made up of five members. This year, seats for district two, which covers Franklin, and one of the county-at-large seats are up for election. Members are elected for four-year terms.
Incumbent Tommy Cabe is running for reelection in district two. Billy Handley, Stephanie Laseter and Danny Reitmeier have all filed to run against Cabe, who previously served as chairman of the board.
In district four, one of the county-at-large seats, incumbent Carol Arnold has filed to run for reelection. Arnold was appointed to the board in 2020 when Fred Goldsmith resigned. She is a lifelong educator, who worked in Macon County for a large portion of her career. Diedre Breeden has filed to compete for the seat.
The Swain County Board of Education is made up of five members. All seats represent the county at large. Three Democratic candidates and four Republican candidates are vying for two seats on the board. Members serve staggered four-year terms.
Incumbent Democrat Travis Hyatt is running for reelection. He was elected to the board in 2018. Democrats Jamie Fisher and Stacy Pegg placed second and third respectively behind Hyatt in the primary election and will compete in the general this fall.
Current board member Kim Carpenter is not running for reelection. Lisa Stoltzfus, Robert Lowe, Joshua Oliver and R.L Taylor are running on the Republican side. Taylor was the highest vote getter of any Republican or Democratic candidate for school board in the primary election vote with 320 votes, closely followed by Stolzfus, then Oliver and then Lowe.