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Two newcomers and two incumbents won seats on Orange County Schools Board of Education


A North Carolina school bus located in Carrboro, N.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. 

André Richmond, Anne Purcell, Will Atherton and Sarah Smylie were elected to the Orange County Schools Board of Education, according to unofficial results from Tuesday. 

Richmond and Purcell are two newcomers, while Atherton and Smylie were re-elected to serve second terms on the board. 

Richmond led the race, winning 19.08 percent of the votes in Orange County. He won the most votes – 8,648 total. 

Purcell, Atherton and Smylie followed Richmond and all received similar numbers of votes. Purcell received 15.73 percent of the votes, Atherton received 15.70 percent and Smylie received 15.19 percent. 

A proud graduate of Orange County Schools, Richmond serves as the captain of the school resource officers division at Orange High School. 

He said his main concerns are expanding community engagement, volunteer support, security, diversity and safety.

He added that he is grateful to the community members who supported him in his campaign and in the election on Tuesday. 

"I want to thank all of my supporters, all of my family, all of my friends, all of the Orange County community and even the reporters," Richmond said. "This is my first campaign, so I have learned a lot and I've met a lot of great folks along the way and I hope to continue that relationship."

Purcell, the other member who is new to the board, said she was impressed by the early voter turnout in Orange County. 

"There was a little over 15,000 in Orange County that voted early voting," she said. "That is way more than what we have had in previous primaries for the last two that we've had."

Purcell has been an educator in Orange County for over 30 years. She has worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and director of student services. She said her background in education and her love for children qualify her for the board.

She expressed her gratitude to voters in Orange County and said she was humbled to see them support her. 

"I think the folks of Orange County have let us know that they want some changes made in our school board," Purcell said. 

Purcell's platform focuses on supporting teachers, principals and academics. She said she wants to help teachers support students as the community returns to a pre-pandemic world.

"I think we really need to focus on finding the funds to get our elementary teachers some help and get teaching assistants back in the classroom," Purcell said. "That is my number one thing right now, that is what I really want to see happen."

In an email statement, incumbent Smylie said she is honored to be able to work with the Orange County Schools community for another four years.

"We can have schools that are excellent, equitable and inclusive," Smylie said in the email, "Where every student gets what they need. Schools that are the best place to work in the state of North Carolina. We just have to stay focused and do the work together. I believe in us."

The biggest issue that she hopes to address as a member of the board is the inequity in student outcomes and experiences in schools.

The other incumbent Atherton said in an email statement that he looks forward to being able to continue to serve the students, teachers, families, staff and community in Orange County.

"Thank you, Orange County!" he said in the email. "My family and I thank you and we are so grateful for your kind words and support throughout my re-election campaign. We saw familiar faces and were thrilled to meet so many new members of our diverse, robust community!"

Atherton's main platforms focus on student outcomes and opportunities, teacher retention and school safety. He plans to improve teacher retention by improving teacher pay, respecting teachers' time for planning and changing the way Orange County tracks teachers' years of experience.

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The other contenders in the race, Ashley Wheeler, Penny Carter King and Bethni Lee, did not win seats.

Wheeler finished fifth in the race with 14.2 percent of the vote. Penny Carter King received 12.75 percent of the votes, Bethni Lee won 5.72 percent and Garen McClure, who pulled out of the race early, received 1.3 percent. 

Wheeler said that she had a very good experience running for a seat on the board. 

"I have met so many wonderful people and I would definitely want to tell everyone that's helped me along the way and supported me that this is just the beginning and I have every intention of continuing to support the community in whatever form that may take, whether I run for office again or support others as they run," she said. 


Emmy Martin

Emmy Martin is the 2023-24 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as the DTH's city & state editor and summer managing editor. Emmy is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and information science.