Craven County commissioners vote to change board of education elections

New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — In a meeting Monday night, Craven County commissioners voted to change the way people vote for members of the school board.

It’s an issue that’s been on the county’s radar for years. Commissioners received calls and emails from concerned citizens after the election that they were confused about what board of education candidates stood for.

Commissioners opened the floor for public comment and discussion on a resolution Monday night.

“I do not think the current election system holds Board of Education members accountable,” said Etteinne Mitchell, commissioner for District 4.

Other commissioners worried the resolution would bring politics in to education.

“I am strongly opposed to this resolution,” said Beatrice R. Smith, commissioner for District 3. “I believe schools should be non-partisan.”

The resolution passed 5-2. It separates school board members into specific districts and includes a political party by their name on the ballot.

Now, the board of education is speaking out.

“(Monday) night, I was frustrated and disappointed because it’s been a really difficult couple of years in Craven County for our students and our community,” said Kim Rice Smith, vice chair for the Board of Education.

Smith is serving her fifth term on the board. She believes politics shouldn’t play a part in education, saying her board is accountable to each parent, student and teacher, not Democrats or Republicans.

“That’s the beauty of a non-partisan board, we did not feel compelled to give greater weight to the people calling their Republican county commissioners than to the mom next door who called us,” said Smith.

Smith understands the shortcomings of the board, but also says board members would have been willing to work with commissioners on a compromise if they were given an opportunity.

“We are trying every day to be better than the day before, and I thin our community deserves that without the tug, and pull, and push of what we saw last night,” said Smith.

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