School board candidates include, top row from left, Lipi Pratt, Dr. Nichell Newton, Celia McCarter, Eric Mann, middle row, Rachele Julian, Desareta Jones, Brandi Jansen, Joe Helms, bottom row, Kevin Glover, Connie Cullen, Michele Branning and Wayne Bouldin.

     Election Day is near, so we gave school board candidates a final exam: Tell us in 100 words or less why residents should vote for you.

   Voters will pick four of these 12 candidates to sit on the Fort Mill School Board of Trustees. Below are the brief pitches, in reverse alphabetical order this time.

   (Click here for longer profiles on each).

Lipi Pratt

   Lipi Pratt: “Hopefully I have earned your vote because I have demonstrated how my perspective as a teacher, parent, and neighbor will lend an unique voice to the board. I know that our schools are excellent and our board should focus on maintaining that excellence. I will bring ideas and knowledge about what our teachers face from day to day and that will be crucial as we face difficulties in teacher retention and recruitment.  I have been making decisions with children in mind for at least 28 years, and that will benefit everyone as the Board works together for our children.”

Dr. Nichell Newton

   Dr. Nichell Newton: “It’s clear that many of us care about our community and students. That’s one foundational component needed to be a good board member.  By choosing me as your candidate, I bring knowledge, degrees, and talents that no one else on the board possesses. Experience on all levels of education and a small business owner.  It’s about adding value, the value our community and our students deserve. Fort Mill is a great school district that should have a great board to compliment. The choice is clear. I am #11 on the ballot but Fort Mill is #1 in my heart.”

Celia McCarter

Celia McCarter: “Invested in the FMSD since 2003 in numerous leadership positions, I have tremendous institutional knowledge. As a trustee, I demonstrated fiscal responsibility and gained undeniable experience with managing growth. The connections that I have with children, parents, employees and other elected officials are incredibly important for me to understand the needs of all the people whom I represent. I rely on these cultivated relationships with other elected officials so that I am a successful advocate on behalf of the FMSD and K-12 education. I will provide consistency and excellence to keep our district moving forward.”

Eric Mann

  Eric Mann: “I have made it a point to get out and speak with parents, teachers, students, and community members regarding our school district. Our conversations have included students with learning disabilities leaving Fort Mill Schools, bias consequences for bullying and student aggression towards teachers, teachers in several schools not being supported by administration, and inappropriate books in the school libraries. I’m going to work with other Board Members to fix these concerns through effective policies and the support of our teachers, parents, students, and school administrators. Fort Mill School District will become one of the best school districts in the nation.”

Rachele Julian

  Rachele Julian: “I joined the military and took advantage of the Gl bill, which paved the way for my education. I currently work in HR. I believe COVID has robbed all of us in one way or another. The quarantine polices put a greater disadvantage with children on IEP or children with disabilities and healthy children. Now we need to focus on getting back to the basics, the reading, writing, and arithmetic without bureaucracy of red tape and allow EVERY child the opportunity of high-quality education. Together, we need to continue to move Fort Mill forward through strong and effective policies.”

Desareta Jones

Desareta Jones: “As a  Licensed Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, my understanding of  the intersection of mental health and school policy is unmatched compared to any other candidate on the ballet. Additionally, I have extensive experience writing polices tied to governance.  The last fifteen years of my life has been comprised of serving children and families from a variety of  social and economic backgrounds. This experience results in my having a well rounded perspective, which our district will benefit from when I am tasked with voting and providing input on matters affecting the community as a board member.”

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Brandi Jansen

Brandi Jansen: “I am a community advocate, a nurse and above all, a parent of 4 children, currently attending school in this district and I am invested in the success of every student and educator here. The aim of my campaign has been to add a voice of perspective and gratitude, void of negativity and political theater, to this election. If nothing else, I hope voters connect with me on that effort in uniting and moving the district forward. It would be my honor and privilege to serve as a Trustee.”

Joe Helms

  Joe Helms: “As the final days are here, I have done my best to spread my message of unity and fiscal responsibility.  While it seems like a long time ago, it also feels like yesterday that I got a sense from the Lord to be a strong voice for our children and our parents. I have a heart to see a more unified district that truly focuses on putting children first and funding the correct programs. As a dad with 3 (soon to be 4) children in the district I am committed to seeing Fort Mill excel to an even greater level.”

Kevin Glover

Kevin Glover: “My name is Kevin Glover, and I would be honored to have your vote for Fort Mill School Board on November 8th. I am a parent of three children who is grateful to have found Fort Mill Schools when our kids had nowhere left to turn during the pandemic. Now I want to return the favor by representing parents on the school board. Teachers collaborating with parents is key to our children’s futures. We need to transform education through innovation and keep distractions out of the classroom to keep Fort Mill on top. If you agree, please vote for me.”

Connie Cullen

Connie Cullen: “I’m asking for your support and vote to represent the children, parents and teachers of Fort Mill. I was raised in South Carolina with Southern values of integrity, respect and hard work.  My husband and I have been married for 16 years with 2 children, both of which are in the Fort Mill school district. I am running on a platform of safety for our children. This means both emotional and physical harm.  I want transparency with the educational material that our children have access to in the classroom. Last, I want to help attract, retain and support wonderful teachers.”

Michele Branning

Michele Branning: “Leadership is Difficult.  Difficult decisions must be made, and they aren’t always popular.  As the fastest-growing district in the state with over 18,200 students, I make decisions with fellow trustees based on state law, administration recommendations, education professionals and my experience.  We navigate needs of staff, students, families, and the taxpayers daily.  We set budgets approaching $200 million annually, with human capital nearly 90% of our budget. We forecast facility needs and build relationships.  I am proud to be part of this #1 district in the state, and top 2% in the nation.  I’d be honored to have your vote.”

Wayne Bouldin

Wayne Bouldin: “I bring more experience to the table than any other candidate in this race. I helped lead this district through budget cuts, hiring a superintendent, doubled student population, facilities planning, and a pandemic. Throughout these challenges the district has maintained its high academic ranking while also adding many new program opportunities for our students. A vote for me is a vote for continued success and academic growth, school safety, teacher recruitment and retention, and ensuring effective & efficient use of operational revenue. I am a longtime dedicated volunteer focused on the betterment of our community.”

Greg "Ricky Bobby" Rickabaugh has lived in the Fort Mill and York County community since 2006. He has covered the area while a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a freelance writer for The Fort Mill...