BOE candidates talk bonds, community partnerships

October marks the start of a heavy campaign season for most candidates, including candidates for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education District 5 and 6 seats.

Two candidates are vying for the District 5 seat, which covers SouthPark, including incumbent Eric Davis and CMS dad Edward Donaldson. Three candidates are vying for the District 6 seat, which will represent constituents from Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville and Ballantyne, including current Matthews Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Bailey, education advocate Bolyn McClung and local educator Doug Wrona. Current District 6 representative Amelia Stinson-Wesley is not seeking re-election.

While District 5 and 6 have some of the strongest schools in the district, the next representatives will face issues with overcrowded schools and will play key roles in helping establish more academic options for students in south Mecklenburg, whether through new magnet programs, partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College or local area businesses.

South Charlotte Weekly asked the five candidates their thoughts on infrastructure in south Mecklenburg and community partnerships and candidates responded through email. Doug Wrona, candidate for District 6, did not respond to questions by press deadline.

Election Day is Nov. 5. Find more on voter information and registration at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, www.meckboe.org.

District 5

In the 2013 Bond Referendum, which goes before voters this November, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools recognized 17 top priority projects that would offer more academic choices, relieve areas of overcrowding and provide renovations or replacements to some of the district’s oldest facilities. District 5 is home to some of the district’s worst conditioned and overcrowded high schools (according to a recent CMS presentation), with Myers Park and South Mecklenburg high schools scheduled for improvements and additions in August 2018. In your opinion, what should the district do to help alleviate overcrowding in these schools now?

Eric Davis
Many citizens in Districts 1 and 6 would argue their schools are the most overcrowded. Many in Districts 2, 3 and 4 would say their schools are crowded and in worse condition. This issue is countywide because CMS grows faster than our county provides capital funding. By comparison, Wake County has an $810 million package on the ballot – nearly three times our current bond package and larger than our last three bonds combined. Schools that surround District 5 are so overcrowded that there is no room for relief through reassignment.
The current bond package includes five projects that will benefit District 5 students: Myers Park High, South Meck High, East Meck High, Selwyn Elementary and Starmount Elementary which will relieve Montclaire Elementary and Huntingtowne Farms Elementary.
In this capital-constrained environment, the board of education must continue to advocate for more capital funding from the county. Similarly, the board of education should explore alternative facility delivery methods such as the potential for lease-to-own procurement. Finally, the board should continue to encourage the superintendent to develop ways to expand the use of technology to stretch our teachers’ reach to more students.

Edward Donaldson
There are currently only two options (I am aware of) that can be done to alleviate overcrowding in the short term for our schools. We can provide additional trailers or do a student reassignment.
I do not support the current bond referendum. I will support a future bond referendum with some conditions. Future bonds must have guarantee start and completion dates, no modifications of construction project and attendance projections for each school are provided for three, five and 10 years out (I requested this information from CMS and have not had this provided. I do not know if CMS has these figures). Past projects from the 2007 bond are not yet complete. Some of the past bonds have been passed only to have the school demolished or closed years later. The board must plan and communicate better. When a bond is issued, the public expects them to be completed in short order.

What role do you feel community partnerships should play in supporting local schools, programming, students and teachers?

Eric Davis
It is important to note the vast number and depth of partnerships we have in CMS. Churches, businesses, neighborhood groups, retirees, sports teams, Central Piedmont Community College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are some of the many partnerships that help our students succeed. Two examples, Christ Lutheran Church with McClintock Middle School and Project LIFT with nine west Charlotte schools, exemplify the confidence our community has in CMS. Instead of starting their own schools, these groups have chosen to partner with CMS to elevate the performance of our public school students. These partners provide critical resources, volunteers and caring adults to our students. These partners demonstrate a rededication to our public school students and a renewed level of commitment to our public school system. Even more, they assist the neighborhoods these schools serve to reclaim ownership of their schools. We are fortunate to live in a community that has such strong community partners.

Edward Donaldson
Any of the community involvement should be revenue neutral. I support programs that benefit basic education goals. We must utilize our publicly funded programs for use with CMS. Business must let CMS know what program and skills they would like to see so we help build the skills for students not pursuing a college education.

District 6

In the 2013 Bond Referendum, which goes before voters this November, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools recognized 17 top priority projects that would offer more academic choices, relieve areas of overcrowding and provide renovations or replacements to some of the district’s oldest facilities. A kindergarten through eighth-grade magnet school, which would relieve already overcrowded schools in the Ballantyne-area, is number 17 on the list, projected to be implemented by August 2020. In your opinion, what should the district do to help alleviate overcrowding now?

Paul Bailey
The magnet school in the Ballantyne area will be an overlay magnet school, meaning the students in that area will have first priority attendance at that school. The options to relieve overcrowding are not many, short of spending the capital required to build the number of schools to accommodate our students. In a July 2012 presentation to the Citizens Capital Budget Advisory Committee, CMS concluded that $1.86 billion would be needed in capital expenditures (2011 dollars un-escalated) to meet the projected needs of 153,000 students in the 2021-22 school year and eliminate all mobile/modular classrooms. With the present bond package on the ballot of $290 million, it is clear alternatives will be required to help reduce overcrowding. The most obvious is utilization of modular classrooms. The second is opening schools that have been closed and implementing popular magnet programs, which, much like the overlay, can provide priority to students at those schools experiencing overcrowding and that are in line to get relief from the bond package. In addition to these temporary measures, strong leadership from the District 6 representative could help to bring this project to a higher priority on the list as projects and changing conditions are reviewed. I believe I am the only candidate running that can offer the leadership required to do this.

Bolyn McClung
I’m in favor of strong neighborhood schools. This means building schools where families live. There are two types of overcrowding: a too-small building and not enough teachers.  School construction is a county issue. The teacher shortage is the result of Raleigh treating teachers as if they can live on pennies. Raleigh is chasing away teachers through low pay and frozen salaries, and won’t give the local districts enough funded teacher positions. This can be solved. Next year, don’t support General Assembly members who cut public school budgets. This November, don’t elect school members who have endorsements from Raleigh. Support legislators, county commissioners and school board representatives who will be thoughtful about funding teacher salaries and school
facilities.

What role do you feel community partnerships should play in supporting local schools, programming, students and teachers?

Paul Bailey
Community partnerships are essential to the success of our public school system. Two aspects of my platform for this campaign (refer to www.electpaulbailey.com) include supporting programs which provide opportunities for students to understand and achieve their career goals, and ensure CMS is fulfilling the needs of our business community so to increase job opportunities for our graduates. Through partnerships, our students can participate in mentoring programs that provide them with coaching, support and understanding of how to set goals and subsequently achieve those goals. To ensure CMS is fulfilling the needs of the business community, partnerships with businesses, students, CMS and CPCC can offer guidance to students on career and post high school studies along with support of their present needs to achieve their high school diploma. For our teachers, these same groups could offer training and professional development opportunities that could transition into model learning in the classroom. Focusing on many of the goals established by the superintendent and school board will influence the KPIs, measures and results, thereby providing a positive and customer-driven experience to parents and students of
CMS.

Bolyn McClung
District 6 schools are a shining example of how parent, corporate and community support is the backbone of student achievement. CMS is aiding this by elevating management of community partnerships to an assistant superintendent level. While it is a very new development, the intent is clear. Principals and athletic directors just don’t have the time to spend with every group that wants to help a school. This new service shifts much of the coordination to a team that has the manpower to work with the corporations, clubs, associations and faith organizations to make sure they feel the reasons they want to support a school are recognized and fulfilled. It’s a really good idea. I support it.

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