Arthur Ravenel Jr.
Unlike many other races, Best School Board Member has never really been a lock for anyone. It was Brian Moody for a few years and Gregg Meyers before that. But Arthur Ravenel taking the spot is surprising in that, much like Leon Stavrinakis, he’s been in the job for only a few weeks. Ravenel ran last November as a reformer, ready to ratchet up accountability. To ensure he could make real changes, Ravenel formed a slate of candidates called the “A-Team,” a group of four other candidates who, with Ravenel and sitting board member David Engelman, would turn what had been a minority of members opposed to many district practices into a majority.
Though Ravenel easily won his seat, the other candidates that Ravenel was campaigning with didn’t fare so well. Ray Toler won reelection in North Charleston, but he faced no competition. Those who did — Lurline Fishburne, Robin Beard, and (former slate member) Sandi Engleman — were all defeated.
While he may have lost the crowd behind him, one of the first things Ravenel did was to easily win approval to return prayer to the opening of board meetings after years of opening with a moment of silence.
“If any political entity in the county needs help, it’s the Charleston County School District,” Ravenel said at the time. “Certainly an appeal to God could not hurt us.”
Since then, he’s been a strong supporter of charter schools, particularly efforts on the peninsula for a math and science charter school. He’s voted with the majority a few times, most recently opposing Toler and David Engelman on changes to the board’s travel policy.
The real question of Ravenel’s ability to make changes on the board will come with looming budget talks. While he may not have the strength behind him that he had planned, Ravenel has proven able to muster support in unlikely places when necessary.
“One thing he understands is that you don’t just say no,” said Jon Butzon, executive director of the education advocacy group Charleston Education Network, in November. “You need to offer another alternative, if not a better alternative.”