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Howell wins York school board seat

Diane Howell, a retired York Comprehensive High School principal, defeated longtime incumbent Shirley Harris in last week’s race for the at-large York school board seat.

Howell, 63, won with about 64 percent of the vote over 36 percent for Harris, a retired York elementary school teacher and librarian who has served on the board for 16 years, according to unofficial results for all 17 precincts posted Tuesday by the S.C. Election Commission.

Howell received 3,638 votes in the only contested school board race in York in 2014, compared to Harris with 2,034 votes.

“I am just so thankful and it’s just amazing I’ve got that much support out there I’m very thankful of all those who supported me,” Howell said.

Howell, a former teacher and director of York’s technology center, served as principal of YCHS from 2002 until her retirement in 2013; she led the opening of York’s new high school in 2010.

She said the district’s employees have been its greatest asset, but she’s concerned that more than 60 new employees were hired this year due to what she sees as an unusually high rate of staff turnover.

She said the district needs to put measures in place to retain good employees. “We’ve lost a lot of good teachers to our neighbors,” she said.

Howell also said she sees a need for improved listening and communication, both to ensure that employees feel valued and that parents or other members of the community understand the reasons why difficult decisions have been made.

Harris, an adult education teacher, served as board chairwoman during 2013, when the school board cut $1.9 million to balance its budget during several contentious meetings. The board eliminated 22 positions and reduced the number of work days for about 20 other administrators and staff.