By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on November 12, 2019
The Dare County Board of Education is expected to consider this week how it will proceed with filling the anticipated vacancy being left by Kill Devil Hills mayor-elect Ben Sproul, who announced during the campaign that he would step down from the school board if elected mayor.
School board attorney Richard Schwartz is slated to provide the board with a briefing on options for moving forward with filling the vacancy at its Nov. 12 meeting. Sproul, whose term on the school board expires on Nov. 30, 2020, is being sworn in as mayor on Dec. 9 after defeating Anne Petera on Nov. 5. Sproul expects to announce a date of resignation sometime between Nov. 12 and Dec. 8.
Schwartz told the Voice that because Sproul was last elected in 2016 — before the N.C. General Assembly in 2017 passed a bill requiring Dare County and eight other counties to hold partisan school board elections — the process of selecting a replacement would also be non-partisan. That means the party affiliation of the person to succeed him would not be a consideration in that selection.
When it comes to replacing Sproul, Schwartz said the board can choose how and when it proceeds, adding that there were no specific time requirements set by law.
“They can nominate or elect [a candidate] through a motion by the board, or have an open call and interview process,” Schwartz explained. There are a wide range of options.”
In the past, the Dare County Board of Education has taken various approaches to filling vacancies, according to Chair Bea Basnight. With the resignation of former member Anthony Fletcher in August of 2013, the board conducted interviews before appointing Danny Couch to serve the remainder of Fletcher’s term. Couch is now a Dare County Commissioner.
In 2015, the board again had to fill a vacancy after longtime chair and board member David Oaksmith stepped down in March of that year. Oaksmith passed away several months later. The board accepted applications from interested candidates at that time, and eventually appointed Ben Cahoon, who now serves as mayor of Nags Head.
Of Sproul’s departure, Basnight said, “We wish Ben all the success in the world as mayor and will miss his service. He has been a dedicated and accomplished board of education member.”
Basnight said she doesn’t anticipate making a decision about how to proceed with appointing Sproul’s successor at the Nov. 12 board meeting. She said the discussion would likely be more informational in nature with a course of action being determined at a later date.
Sproul, who has served on the Dare County Board of Education since 2008, said he was grateful for his time on the board as well as confident of the “continued skyward trajectory of our schools.”
“I am proud to have been a part of such a prolonged period of continual growth and improvement for our students and educators,” he said in a statement. “As I transition to this new challenge, I am immensely grateful for all I have learned during my time on the school board, especially the unparalleled council of my greatest mentors, Dave Oaksmith and Warren Judge.”
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