NEWARK – Voters will notice several candidates for the Worcester County Board of Education on the ballot as they head to the polls in this spring’s primary election.
Longtime incumbent Sara Thompson, who represents District 3 on the school board, is being challenged by Shirley Bunting Moran and Francis Gebhart for her seat. This is the first time in close to 10 years she’s faced any opponents.
“I’m going to get out and talk to people in my district,” Thompson said. “I have people tell me they support me. I hope that’s the case.”
Seats in District 5 and District 2 are also up for grabs in this year’s election. In District 5, currently represented by Jonathan Cook, residents Elena McComas and Tom Terry have filed to run. In District 2, incumbent Barry Brittingham faces no challengers.
Because only two candidates for each district will be listed on the ballot in the fall’s general election, the primary election will be used to narrow the field in District 3 with the top two vote getters advancing. The deadline to file was Feb. 3.
When contacted this week, Gebhart, a Berlin resident, said he has had concerns regarding the county’s board of education since 2012. It was then he approached the board to share his alarm about the implementation of Common Core. He also has concerns about the associated PARCC testing.
“I addressed the board numerous times,” he said. “It fell on deaf ears.”
Gebhart, who had four children attend Worcester County’s schools, believes he’s the ideal candidate for voters who want a conservative on the board.
“If you’re looking for someone who will do their homework and not just agree with the rest of the board members, I should have an excellent chance,” he said.
Moran, a retired educator who still works substitute teaching, says she’s considered running for a seat on the board for some time. She believes that her 46 years of experience — spent as a teacher, guidance counselor and in the central office — make her a well-qualified candidate. She wants to make sure the school system stays the top performing school system it has been in recent years.
“I think one of the things we have to look at is the board’s relationship with the county commissioners,” she said. “I’d like to see us form a closer bond with the commissioners.”
She also wants to make sure the school system preserves its focus on hiring quality teachers and providing students with the latest technology.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of,” she said. “I want to see us maintain that.”
As for Thompson, who is serving her 22nd year on the school board, she wants to continue the work she’s been doing. She wants to see construction of a new Showell Elementary School begin, be involved in the selection of a new superintendent of schools and help ensure teachers’ salaries stay competitive.
“There are still so many uncertain things,” she said. “I want to make sure we stay on the right path.”
Thompson, who spent more than 30 years as a substitute teacher, was appointed to the school board before its seats became elected. She said that aside from the first year it was an elected body, she has not faced any opponents until this year.