The year has been defined by change for the South Pike School District, and more change is on the way.

A runoff election for District 4 school board trustee pits longtime district employee Carrie Tate Christian against community advocate Leslie E. Hurst. The winner will replace former board president and District 4 trustee John Hilbert, who will retire after a long career. He first took office in 1996.

Christian received 349 votes (46%) in the general election. Hurst narrowly defeated Fred Booth with 208 votes (28%) to his 193 (26%) to send her through to the Nov. 26 runoff.

Carrie Tate Christian

Christian, 62, of Magnolia, is a former employee of the South Pike school district. She retired as child nutrition administrator earlier this year after serving the district for 14 years. Christian was first hired to be the food service director in 2005.

She graduated from South Pike High School and said she’s lived in Pike County for her entire life. She’s a resident of the Progress community.

Christian studied food and nutrition at Alcorn State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1980. She went on to receive a master’s degree in secondary education with an endorsement in guidance education from Alcorn State before working as an Extension home economist.

As an Extension agent, Christian provided educational programming to children throughout Pike County schools. She performed demonstrations to educate young students on topics such as groundwater contamination and other hazards. She managed educational outreach programs meant to teach children in schools about topics such as nutrition, food safety and other health-related issues.

Christian did not respond to requests for comment from the Enterprise-Journal.

However, on her Facebook page she said she’s running for the District 4 trustee position to serve as a strong representative for the interests of everyone throughout the South Pike community.

“If elected, I will be a voice that will be heard for the students, parents, faculty and staff for the betterment of South Pike school district,” Christian said on the page.

She said her experiences working in various capacities within the school district have prepared her to represent South Pike and serve as an effective board member.

“I worked for the South Pike School District for 14 years,” she wrote. “And understand many of the issues and problems of the district.”

Christian wrote that advocating for the interests of students throughout the district is one of her top priorities.

Leslie E. Hurst

Hurst, 61, of Magnolia, said her experience working with students and staff throughout the South Pike School District and her background of career, technical and continuing education make her the right choice for school board trustee.

“I really care for these students,” she said.

Hurst was born in Philadelphia, Pa., but has lived in Magnolia for the last 15 years. She said three of her children went through and graduated from the South Pike school district.

She’s an active member of Unity Missionary Baptist Church in Progress and is married to the Rev. Xavier B. Hurst of Magnolia.

“I want our children to become productive citizens,” she said. “They need a proper education to be able to contribute.”

She said her involvement with the school district has been direct and longstanding and she’s acted as both a mentor and advocate for the interests of students and parents. Hurst has worked as a substitute teacher for the district since 2013 and works part-time for Southwest Mental Health Complex in McComb.

“I have a heart for the children,” she said. “I’m kind and caring.”

Hurst served as president of the South Pike High School parent-teacher organization and president of the booster club for the basketball and softball teams. Hurst said she’s a two-time recipient of the high school parent of the year award and works with the Good News Club at Eva Gordon Lower Elementary.

She said one of her main priorities is to hire certified instructors to teach in their respective areas of expertise. She said she will work to ensure district policies are applied equitably to everyone and will manage district monies responsibly.

“Through prayer I believe that change will come for the betterment of South Pike,” she said.

Hurst said she’d like to see the district move in a more innovative direction, offering and supporting more opportunities for career and technical education and courses that teach students skills directly applicable to work and life after high school. She said those lessons are important and need to be taught.

“Let’s look outside the box,” she said. “People are afraid to step out of the box.”

She said her combination of life experience and time spent working throughout the school district, with parents, teachers and students, has prepared her to serve as District 4 school board trustee. “I truly appreciate your vote of confidence in my attaining this school board seat,” she said.

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