October marks the start of a heavy campaign season for most candidates, including candidates for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education District 6 seat.
Three candidates are vying for the 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 6 has some of the strongest schools in the district, the next representative will face issues with overcrowded schools and play a key role 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.
Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly asked the three candidates their thoughts on infrastructure in Matthews and Mint Hill and community partnerships, and candidates responded through email. Doug Wrona did not respond to questions by press deadline.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Find out more on voter information and registration on the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, www.meckboe.org.
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. Of the 17 projects, expansion of career and technical education to Independence High School is the only project that will affect students directly in Matthews and Mint Hill. Do you feel school infrastructure is where it needs to be in the two towns?
Although the Matthews and Mint Hill areas have had an appreciable increase in the number of schools over the past 15 years, I do not believe the infrastructure is where it needs to be to facilitate the existing student population. In a July 2012 presentation to the Citizens Capital Budget Advisory Committee, CMS provided two key points. First, “There are 866 modular/mobile classrooms currently in use, down from a high of 1,254,” meaning the new schools built using the 2007 bonds have provided much needed infrastructure; and second, “…projected the net growth for the 2021-22 school year to be 153,000 students in the (pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade) program,” up from today’s student population of approximately 141,000 and recognizing the population in the county is going to continue growing. This same 2012 presentation stated, “By 2019, CMS must build 34 new schools to accommodate growth and eliminate all mobile/modular classrooms,” and reached a conclusion that $1.86 billion would be needed in capital expenditures (2011 dollars un-escalated) to meet the outlined goals. Mecklenburg County supported placing a bond referendum on the November 2013 ballot for $290 million. This presents the stark reality of how far apart the needs and the ability to fund actually are. Two things are needed to begin remedying the infrastructure issue: the public needs to support the CMS bonds on the November ballot, and a clear paradigm shift needs to occur regarding the expenditure of capital dollars required to bring the infrastructure into compliance with public expectation.
In my opinion, Mint Hill and Matthews need an additional middle school. This was acknowledged last month by CMS. The school didn’t make it onto the bonds list because the county has itself on a financial diet while it gets its spending under control. However, (Superintendent) Heath Morrison said last week that he is already in conversations with the county over the possibility of accelerating the construction schedules. If I’m on the school board, you’ll find me supporting that. In the meantime, Mint Hill and Matthews parents can and should contact their county commissioners about freeing up more money for school construction.
What role do you feel community partnerships should play in supporting local schools, programming, students and teachers?
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.
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.