Grassroots groups from north and south Mecklenburg met Tuesday to discuss their top priority: petitioning the N.C. General Assembly to split Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools into three school districts.
The south suburban group known as SMART (South Mecklenburg Alliance of Responsible Taxpayers) met Tuesday night at Raintree Country Club to join forces with SPARK - a group of north Mecklenburg residents that has been working through CMS issues since last summer.
SPARK (short for Strategic Partners for Accountability and Reform of Key Educational Performances) was started by residents unhappy with their CMS schools and what they say is a lack of consideration by the part of the Board of Education.
SPARK leader and Huntersville resident Tom Davis addressed about 30 people from south Mecklenburg Tuesday night and passed out documents outlining their hopes for a new system.
"We've got some great people in CMS, but we've got processes that are broken, leadership that's not there," said Davis.
Davis said they would like to see CMS broken into three school districts: North, Central and South.
The North district would include Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and the Mountain Island lake area.
The Central district would include the area within the Interstate 485 loop with slight adjustments based on enrollment.
The South District would stretch from the Steele Creek area on the west to Mint Hill on the east.
Many of the south Meck residents liked what they heard.
South Charlotte resident and SMART leader Tim Timmerman called CMS a "monolith" that is too large to represent everyone fairly.
Anger over District 6 choice
SMART was formed about four months ago by a group of south suburban residents frustrated with low voter turnout and what they say are high taxes with little return. They were also fueled by anger over a decision by the Democratic majority on the school board to appoint Pineville resident and Democrat Amelia Stinson-Wesley to an open seat representing Republican-leaning District 6.
SMART gained attention recently when Republican county commissioner Bill James suggested the area south of N.C. 51 should secede from the city of Charlotte.
A similar "secession" movement in 2005 drew hundreds to talk about splitting CMS up into smaller districts. But the movement fizzled in 2006, in part because Superintendent Peter Gorman was hired, and he promised to make the district less Charlotte-centric.
Now leaders from SPARK and SMART say they don't want to wait until CMS hires another new superintendent who'll make similar promises. They're circulating a petition for the state legislature at chn.ge/x6G0ew .
Davis said that once state leaders see a well-laid, "cheaper, faster, better" plan, they just might bite.
"This bill can be looked at favorably, if we do it right," said Davis. "It's a place to start ... what's working now evidently isn't working too well."