Windsor-area School Board seat contested

Published 11:06 am Monday, May 1, 2023

Isle of Wight County could see at least one contested School Board race in November.

Laequinla Hunter recently announced her candidacy for the Windsor-area District 4 seat, currently held by Jason Maresh.

Hunter, 44, and Maresh, 47, are in the process of collecting signatures of registered voters to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot. Candidates have until June 20 to file their paperwork.

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Hunter is the founder and lead pastor of God’s Anointed Touch Ministries, a nondenominational church. Her campaign literature pledges to build “strong collaboration and partnership with students, parents and teachers.”

Hunter, in an email to The Smithfield Times, said a need for more substitute teachers, retention of bus drivers, keeping and retaining teachers, securing free resources and supplies for teachers and encouraging stronger curriculums are among the issues that motivated her to run for the seat.

According to God’s Anointed Touch Ministries’ website, Hunter worked as a paraprofessional for Suffolk Public Schools and as a supervisor for an Isle of Wight summer recreation program helping at-risk youth until age 26, when she left her Suffolk job to pursue ministry full time.

Maresh confirmed to the Times by email he’s also planning to run for what would be his first full four-year term.

He was elected in November to fill the remainder of former board member Julia Perkins’ term, which will end Dec. 31.

Last year’s elections saw two self-described conservative candidates – Maresh and Mark Wooster – win seats on the five-member board. Together with board Chairman John Collick, who won his seat in 2021 with the endorsement of the county’s Republican Party, the three have adopted a number of changes aimed at eliminating “divisive” and “sexually explicit” content from schools, including a controversial policy in March that prohibits educators from teaching students about “systemic racism.”

The policy change added a seven-point framework by which teachers are to instruct students on controversial issues, including one that explicitly asserts “there is no systemic racism or bigotry perpetuated by the United States or any governmental entity.” The policy passed 3-2, over objections from students, teachers and the board’s two Black members, Denise Tynes and Michael Cunningham.

Wooster, who is also filling a term set to expire Dec. 31, told the Times by email that he’s also in the process of collecting signatures to get his name on the ballot for what would be a four-year term. Tynes, who was last elected in 2019, is also up for reelection and confirmed to the Times at a recent School Board meeting that she plans to run again.