Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Democrats secure majority on New Hanover County school board

Republican Stephanie Kraybill (left) and Democrats Hugh McManus (middle) and Stephanie Walker (right) will all be newcomers to the New Hanover County school board. (Port City Daily photo/file)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — For the first time in years, the New Hanover County Board of Education will consist of a Democratic majority with blue-party candidates Stephanie Walker and Hugh McManus securing seats at the table along with Republican Stephanie Kraybill.

All three newcomers won with approximately 17% of the votes, beating out Republicans Tony McGhee and Pete Wildeboer and Democrat Chris Meek, who each collected around 15-16%.

Related: 2020 Election: County-level election results in the Cape Fear region [Free read]

The 2020 winners solidify an entirely new roster on the school board, following the 2018 election when four newcomers ousted long-time incumbents of an all-Republican board.

Walker, McManus and Kraybill will serve alongside Democrats Stefanie Adams, Judy Justice and Nelson Beaulieu. Republican board member Bill Rivenbark will be vacating his seat halfway through his term in order to serve his newly elected position on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

The new members fill the seats of those who did not seek re-election, including one-term member David Wortman, two-term member Lisa Estep and five-term member Jeannette Nichols. New board members will be tasked with appointing Rivenbark’s replacement.

The district’s controversy over its handling of sexual abuse is likely a contributing factor to this overhaul of leadership. Multiple cases – although, most recently an arrest of a teacher on child sex charges earlier in the year – led to former Superintendent Tim Markley’s controversial resignation. The district now has new administration officials in place, including Superintendent Charles Foust, taking charge of the direction of the school system.

Walker was the frontrunner in this year’s race with 17.85% of votes. The Wilmington native grew up in the local schools and is now a small business owner. A survivor of childhood sexual assault, the electee is looking to address safety in schools.

Walker’s other interests include expanding pre-K, mitigating the effects of adverse childhood experiences, addressing disparities and achievement gaps and pay for staff, including bus drivers.

Kraybill received the second-highest percentage of votes, 17.70%. She has worked as a substitute teacher and volunteered in schools since the late ‘90s. Kraybill campaigned on securing financial and human resources, such as volunteers and paid educators, counselors and social workers.

She also aims to update board of education policies, expand career and technical education programs, and improve the recruitment and retention of staff.

Coming in a close third, McManus garnered 17.38% of votes. The former administrator and teacher of 40 years identified his key issues as access to technology for all students, transparency, bullying, safety, diversity-learning gaps and counselor presence to address stress, among other matters.

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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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