In one of the most-watched Midlands elections, incumbent James Manning and newcomers Cheryl Caution-Parker, Amelia McKie and Craig Plank were elected Tuesday to the Richland 2 School Board.
Incumbents Melinda Anderson and Barbara Specter lost their re-election bids in a 12-way race that exposed racial fault lines in the district.
With the election, the makeup of the board shifts from a 4-3 white majority, to a 4-3 black majority, reflecting the racial balance of the district. Black students now make up nearly 59 percent of the 27,300 student population, while white students, once in the majority, number about 27 percent.
Early on, a black parents organization encouraged more minority candidates to enter the race. The group, the Richland 2 Black Parents Association,
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also raised pointed questions on its website about the racial makeup of the administration and the number of black students facing suspension or expulsion.
That prompted a group of white retirees, formed as the Bi-Partisan Committee, to respond with its own slate of candidates and to mail a provocative flier that stirred more charges.
Caution-Parker, a retired Richland 2 administrator, found herself in the midst of the brouhaha as the lone minority candidate on the Bi-Partisan slate.
“Who is on the school board matters sometimes more than who your governor is,” said former school board member Dan Neal. “I’ve prayed all day that we have a result that benefits the kids in the community.”
In other races, the Lexington-Richland 5 School Board went back to full strength at seven members. Voters picked Larry Haltiwanger to fill a Richland seat that was vacant for the past 18 months, after the ouster of former member Kim Murphy over residency issues.
In Lexington 1, incumbents Brad Pitts, Sandra Backman and Debbie Knight retained their seats.