Monday, June 24, 2024

The school board is about to have three Steph/fanies

The New Hanover County school board is about to have three Step/fanies: Stefanie Adams (top left), Stephanie Walker (top right) and Stephanie Kraybill (bottom). It’s almost a majority. (Port City Daily photo/Zoom screenshot)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — It’s almost a majority.

Come Tuesday night, New Hanover County Schools will have three Steph/fanies on its board of education.

Newly elected members Stephanie Kraybill and Stephanie Walker will swear into office, joining chairperson Stefanie Adams at the table.

Among other noteworthy changes this new board represents — an entire slate of members serving their first term after decades of veteran boards; the first democratic majority in years — the introduction of two new Stephanies may also break some kind of local record.

Related: New Hanover County school board electees poised to lead change, vow to regain trust

In advance of their oaths, Port City Daily asked the three women if they’d be open to meeting on Zoom to discuss their near-majority. Like good sports, all agreed.

First thoughts

Walker was the first to take a question.

“Usually, I don’t go first,” Walker said. “When I got married, I went from middle to bottom with a W. So thank you.”

Walker recalled the first memory of her name as learning to spell it in Kindergarten, a daunting task.

“It’s nine letters, Steph-a-nie, three syllables, and I didn’t do a good job,” Walker said.

Walker and Kraybill joke that on top of sharing the same name, they’re pretty alike. Both had similar campaign signs at the start of the election, until Walker ended up changing her design.

“We both used the same clip art,” Kraybill said. “Our minds are in the same direction.”

Both also recall being the only Stephanie they knew growing up. However, Adams said she feels like she’s been sharing her name forever.

She was one of three Stephanies in her first-grade class, but the only one with an “F” in the spelling. She said her mom wanted her to be special – but there is a downside to originality.

“To this day, I’ve never been able to get a pen with my name on it,” Adams said.

Campaign advantage?

The Stephanies and Stefanie believe voters have mixed all of them up at some point.

Walker and Kraybill may have earned a few votes for each other accidentally. Walker said even her mother mistook Kraybill’s campaign sign, with the name “Stephanie” in large print, as her daughter’s.

Adams said voters sometimes thought she was rerunning or that she had got married and changed her last name.

“They were asking me which Stephanie I was so they could vote for me,” Adams said.

Kraybill backed this up.

“When I made it to the primary, somebody said, ‘I thought you were already on the board,’” Kraybill said.

Who will be called what

There may be some confusion during discussions at the upcoming board of education table, for sure.

“A lot of times when we get into deep discussion, we go to first names,” Adams said. “We do try to keep it formal when we’re on the board and we try to say ‘Mr. this’ or ‘Ms. this,’ but a lot of times we get into ‘Hey, David, Judy, Nelson, what do you think about that?’ And I’m like, oh this is just going to be a hot mess because if we get into, ‘Stephanie, what are your thoughts’ – well, which one are you talking to?”

The repeating names should force the board members to refer to each other by last names from here on out, especially during meetings.


The name “Stephanie” comes from Greek origin and means crown or garland. It’s also the female version of Stephen.

Walker would know best. She was named after her father, Steve, but her nickname among her friends is Steph. Other than that, she has few other monikers.

“It’s OK. I like my name,” Walker said. “I just never really had to think about that much until now.”

Kraybill is known to some as “Steph” or “Stephie.” In high school sports, coaches sometimes called her Stevie, which she appreciated because she admired the famous musician (i.e. Stevie Nicks). She’s also been dubbed “411” due to her extensive knowledge of different subjects.

In elementary school, Adams was sometimes called “Step On Me,” a reference to an episode of Full House in which Stephanie Tanner is given the nickname. Later in life, Adams was known in college as “cheerleader Steph.”

“It’s still totally part of my personality,” Adams said. “That cheerleader Steph will come through on the board, just like Stephanie Kraybill’s 411 will come on the board.”

Story idea? Email Alex Sands at

Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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