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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Two incumbents and two newcomers have won seats on the Guilford County Board of Education – with one more change to come.

Incumbent Republican Linda Welborn in District 4 and incumbent Democrat Khem Irby in District 6 will be returning to the board, where they will be joined by the two newcomers, Republican Crissy Pratt in District 2 and Democrat Alan Sherouse in the at-large seat.

Deena A. Hayes, the board’s chair, also will return unopposed to serve District 8, but Republican Pat Tillman, who represents District 3, will be vacating that seat after he was elected to serve the same district on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, in effect being promoted to the board overseeing the seat he is vacating.

Tillman’s term would have expired in 2024, and Guilford County Republicans would nominate someone to fulfill the remainder of his term. The school board ultimately would choose.

If Pat wins, he would create the vacancy on the School Board when he gets sworn in as a commissioner,” Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said in response to an email query from WGHP.  “The Republican Party executive committee would nominate the replacement, and the remaining members of the school board would appoint that person.

“Since we’re at the mid-point [of his term], there is no special election. The replacement would serve the rest of the original term, and we’d have a regular election in 2024 for the normally scheduled next term (if the vacancy came early in the term, like Ray Trapp/Skip Alston a few years ago), we would hold a special election at the midpoint for the remainder of the term.”

Tillman did not respond immediately to an email seeking his comment.

Also serving until 2024 are District 1 representative T. Dianne Bellamy Small (D-Greensboro), Deborah Napper (U-Summerfield) in District 5 and Bettye T. Jenkins (D-Greensboro) in District 7.

Two openings emerged because two longtime board members, at-large member and vice chair Winston McGregor and Anita Sharpe in District 2, did not seek re-election, and the new board will include two candidates – Welborn and Pratt – who were backed by the nonprofit activism group “Take Back Our Schools.” Two others (Demetria Carter and Tim Andrew) were defeated.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Sherouse defeated Carter by earning 55% of about 182,000 votes that were counted. The results are neither official nor final.

Pratt of High Point defeated Democrat Amanda Cook, getting 58.5%, and Irby of Greensboro beat Andrew with 52.5% of the votes. Welborn of Greensboro got 52% in turning back Democrat Deon Clark.

About the group

Take Back Our Schools says on its website that it is part of a “movement taking place” nationally and espouses 13 beliefs that are couched in vague language but appear to be consistent with values pursued by GCS. But on its Facebook page, this group shares the sort of controversial claims that have turned school board meetings elsewhere into shouting matches and even death threats.

The group has come under fire recently by Jennifer Ruppe of the Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center and Hayes and McGregor recently sought clarity about the organization’s nonprofit status and its level of political involvement.

Sherouse, a minister and the father of four students in Guilford County schools, said before the election that “some politicians and movements — such as Take Back Our Schools locally — seek to turn our district into a cultural battleground, which is bad for our community socially, culturally, economically and at every level. It erodes trust in our schools.

“It portrays relationships between parents and teachers as adversarial and uncooperative. It depicts efforts to ensure the basic rights of students as a nefarious agenda. It sees danger and deficiency at every turn in our schools. It minimizes the values of equity, diversity and inclusion that are core to our community. And it ultimately undermines the tremendous good we can accomplish through public education.”

Pratt said her goals for serving the board would be “to improve academics, increase transparency, make our schools safer, and to promote financial responsibility and transparency in spending.”

Welborn had touted the relationships and trust she believes she had built with parents and educators. “Over the years I have had parents, teachers and administrators from all over the county reach out to me,” she said before the election. “I treat everyone respectfully, sometimes they simply need someone to listen, sometimes they need someone to assist them in getting to the right individuals that can help them.”

Much to do

The new board has a lot to do, with $2 billion in bonds to build and replace its facilities, pressure to regain lost learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a new superintendent in place.

“We need transparency with the community – in how our tax dollars are being spent and on what is actually happening in our schools (both the good and the bad),” Pratt said. “We need to ensure that we are laser-focused on providing the best possible education for every single one of our students and all efforts of the board should keep this in mind at all times.”

Said Irby: “The board has taken steps by working with the county commissioners to increase teacher supplements, tutoring and learning hubs are available to every student. We must continue supporting our superintendent and follow our strategic plan for literacy, math, career pathways, safety and remaining committed to the priorities of the capital projects of the two bond referendums.”