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CMS: County rankings could lead to bond defeat

Mecklenburg County’s re-ranking of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools construction priorities shortchanges projects that would relieve crowded schools, CMS officials said Tuesday.

Some board members said that could doom bonds to defeat.

“We cannot afford to have the bond fail,” said Ericka Ellis-Stewart, one of several members who called on the public to rally for the original CMS priority list.

A county ranking lists 10 CMS projects that would make the cut if the county puts three years of projects on the ballot in November. Two more projects would be added if the county goes with a four-year bond.

None of those projects is in south suburban District 6, and only one is in north suburban District 1. Both areas have seen enrollment surge, leading CMS to haul in mobile classrooms to extend school capacity. And both, in years past, have complained that CMS was too slow to build new schools.

“Those folks vote,” said Tim Morgan, an at-large school board member who lives in District 6. “I’ve got real concerns about it being able to pass.”

In past bonds, CMS set its own priorities, based on academic plans, school crowding and the need to upgrade aging buildings. But county officials, faced with a debt crunch, created their own system to prioritize all the projects it pays for – not just schools but libraries, parks, jails and other county projects.

Because CMS can document safety issues at old buildings, proposals to renovate or replace those buildings fare well on the county ratings, Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain said. But when the county considers population growth, it measures growth by registered voters, not student enrollment.

Rhonda Lennon, who represents District 1, called that system “absolutely absurd.” She said when there are as many students in trailers as inside the building, it becomes difficult to move everyone to shelter if a tornado threatens.

Lennon urged north and south suburban residents to start lobbying county commissioners: “We’re bumped out of the money on this one, folks, and we need to have our voices heard.”

Board Chairman Mary McCray urged people to speak at Thursday’s public hearing on the county budget, at 6 p.m. at the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

In other action Tuesday:

• Mark Bosco, former principal of Independence High, was named to take over leadership of Myers Park High.

Bosco is currently executive director of the Northeast Zone, one of CMS’ administrative areas. Tom Spivey is retiring as principal of Myers Park, the largest school in CMS.

• The CMS board approved a 2014-15 academic calendar, starting on Aug. 25 and ending June 10. See it at www.cms.k12.nc.us.

• The board approved spending $934,000 for 23 acres on Rocky River Road to build a replacement Newell Elementary School.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter @anndosshelms
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