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CMS board gives arts academy 2nd life

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  • New principal named

    Deborah Heath will be principal of her neighborhood school, following a vote by the school board Tuesday. Heath, assistant principal at Independence High School the last five years, was named principal at Clear Creek Elementary.

    “She has a passion for Clear Creek,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said. “It is her neighborhood.”

    She has been with CMS for 25 years, teaching at Carmel Middle, Druid Hills Elementary, Albemarle Road Elementary, Northeast Middle and Mint Hill middle schools. She became a principal intern at Independence in 2006 and assistant principal a year later.

    She earned her bachelors and masters degrees from UNC Charlotte



Janice Davidson and the University Park Creative Arts Academy parents who hugged her Tuesday afternoon were celebrating their school’s reprieve from educational death row.

But Davidson says she, the staff and parents have work ahead of them, in the wake of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board’s unanimous decision to reverse a plan that would have closed the northwest Charlotte school.

“We have gone through a lot of transition,” Davidson said after the board vote during a meeting at Mallard Creek High School. “Now we have to rebuild.

“I think we’ll have to do a lot of communication, public relations. We need to tell people about our rich tradition.”

The school board had decided two years ago, in the midst of cost-cutting during tight budget years, to close University Park Creative Arts and merge its program with First Ward Creative Arts Academy uptown. The merger would have required using multi-track scheduling -- a concept so complex that then-Superintendent Peter Gorman and his successor, Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh postponed the merger in back-to-back years.

Earlier this month, faced with a vote on whether to go ahead with the plan for next year, Superintendent Heath Morrison blew the whistle and called for a time out. He said he wanted to review the plan, to see if it really would save money.

His decision: Multi-track scheduling would have too many drawbacks, and the merger actually might add to the system’s expenses.

The decision was a hit with parents who spoke Tuesday during a public hearing.

“While a year-round option would be nice to have, it should be researched,” said Maria Lamb, a First Ward parent. “The multi-track calendar is very complicated.”

And University Park parent Karen Steele said, “We have a wonderful school, they (First Ward) have a wonderful school. Thank you, Mr. Morrison. Someone finally heard our voice.”

Davidson says University Park Creative Arts, off Beatties Ford Road, has lost enrollment in recent years. The school, which has offered an arts magnet program for more than 15 years, declined from about 650 students to around 450. She hopes to see those numbers climb, now that parents know the school won’t be closing.

“We’ll have some happy parents,” she said.

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