By Connie Leinbach
The Hyde County Board of Education is looking for an Ocracoke resident to fill the school board vacancy created when islander David Tolson resigned at the June 12 board meeting on the mainland.
Tolson, who had been a school board member since 2002, said he has wanted to be off the board for a while now owing to personal reasons.
“I’ve enjoyed being on the school board since Casey was in second grade,” Tolson said about his involvement.
Since his son Casey has graduated, Tolson said it’s time for someone else to step up.
According to the State Department of Education, the board will appoint someone to fill Tolson’s remaining two-year term until the 2018 election.
Randy Etheridge of Engelhard, who was elected board chair at the June 12 meeting, said about the vacancy that after Dr. Randolph Latimore, school superintendent, gets back from vacation next week, they will confer with the district’s attorney about some criteria for the position and then get the word out.
Anyone who is interested in filling the term is asked to contact Etheridge at 252-542-0203.
In an interview, Etheridge, who is in his second term as a school board member, said he feels it’s a great honor to serve the children of Hyde County.
The county, which includes Ocracoke and the mainland, has two schools: Ocracoke School and the Mattamuskeet campus in Swan Quarter.
Ocracoke School is kindergarten to grade 12 and also has some online college courses. The Mattamuskeet campus includes kindergarten, high school and has an early college high school option in conjunction with Beaufort County Community College.
With early college, students go to five years of high school and graduate with an associate’s degree
“I want to make our schools the best we possibly can,” Etheridge continued. “That’s the goal. Everything else will fall in place if we take care of the children.”
As the owner of Etheridge Oil and Gas in Engelhard and the parent of two boys, ages 3 and 6, Etheridge said he is invested in the school system.
He noted that the closeness of the Ocracoke community is a major factor of students’ success. (See story here about the 2016 Ocracoke School graduates receiving more than $400,000 in higher education scholarships.)
“The involvement in the school by the Ocracoke community impacts how well the school works,” he said. “There are so many positives with that interaction. It speaks volumes about what kids can do with the support of parents.”
Whereas everything in the island village is about three minutes away, some of the kids on the mainland have an hour’s ride to school, Etheridge said.
Community support builds children’s’ confidence—a major factor of success.
“Confidence energizes kids,” he said. “With confidence, a kid can go to the next level.”
He said he wants to make sure residents get the correct information about all things in the school district and welcomes questions any time.
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