The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 5, 2013

Stanly County Board of Education fills vacant seat, names chairman

Swaringen appointed vacant seat; Chance named chairman, Mills voted vice chairwoman

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor

Thursday, December 5, 2013 — The Stanly County Board of Education voted to fill its vacant seat for District 7 during Tuesday night’s scheduled meeting.

In what appeared to be a surprise appointment or at least a quicker than expected process, the board narrowly appointed Todd Swaringen to fill the vacant seat left by Grant Allen, who resigned two months ago after moving out of the district. Swaringen edged Tommy Townsend by one vote in the intra-board poll.

Newly elected Vice Chairwoman Angela Mills nominated Swaringen, a certified public accountant, to fill the seat, citing his willingness to serve the district where he resides.

“I am honored to have been nominated and appointed as a member of the Board of Education,” Swaringen said Wednesday.

“My sincere hope is that I will represent the best interests of the students, schools, staff and Stanly County during the balance of this term.”  

The nomination caught board members Melvin Poole and Mike Barbee by surprise. They preferred an interview process extended to others that live in the district.

“I’d like to get someone on here who wants to be on here, instead of grabbing someone,” Poole said.

“There’s probably some others out there that didn’t know they could offer their name.”

When reminded that the replacement process lies in the hands of the board and that time is short for the unexpired term, which ends next December, Poole quickly nominated Townsend as a second option.

Barbee agreed that more candidates should be considered before voting.

“Why limit ourselves to two people when we can open it up for those in the district?” Barbee said.

“I don’t know what the rush is. It looks like a setup.”

Swaringen said Wednesday that he approached Mills about filling the seat. He said that he is civic-minded, with two children in the school system and another one set to enter. District 7 represents southeast Stanly County, including Norwood and Aquadale.

Voting for a board chairman presented more options than the vacant seat. There were three nominees for chairman: Poole, Mills and Jeff Chance. Chance emerged victorious with a majority after a hand-written vote among the board members. Chance makes a return at chairman, replacing the outgoing post occupied by Poole.

Mills was unanimously chosen as vice chairwoman.

A group addressed the board about converting the former Ridgecrest Elementary School in Locust to an agricultural-based K-5 magnet or charter school.

“It’s been said ‘as the school goes, so goes the community.’ We want Stanly County to have the first elementary, agriculture school in the state of North Carolina,” said Butch Lambert, part of the group’s steering committee.

He, along with two others representing the group, talked about plans to reopen Ridgecrest as a magnet or charter school, modeled after a school in the agricultural-rich Kansas.

They argued that students need to reconnect with the county’s farming roots, especially in a county where agriculture remains the chief industry. Agriculture, aluminum and the eroding industry of textiles are equal components on the county’s seal.

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state,” Poole said.

Proponents of the school want an agricultural-based curriculum that would extend to all interested students in the county. If the school would become a magnet school, it would remain under the domain of Stanly County Schools.

Should the facility become a charter school, Stanly County would have no say in its operation and it could draw enrollment from outside the county.

Lambert said the group wants the school board to assist with efforts to create a magnet school or they will apply for a charter school next September.

Call Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email