Monica Raab felt strongly enough about a controversial town charter bill that she loaded up her three young children, braved the rain and turned out for Monday's Matthews Town Council meeting.
She wasn't about to let her 18-month-old son's vocal restlessness derail her remarks. She spoke flawlessly while adjusting and removing the baby sling holding Philip to her chest. She paused briefly to comfort him, then hefted him onto her shoulders and kept talking.
The small audience watching Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Carol Sawyer stream the meeting on Facebook went nuts.
"Mothers are so amazing!!! Omg this is insane! She is a rock star," Kevin Poirier posted.
"Mamas doing what they have to do!" said Diane Takata Powell.
A stranger in the audience finally stepped up to help with the kids, allowing Raab to finish arguing that the town should abandon its support for a bill that would let Matthews create town charter schools and instead work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to improve education for everyone.
"We can do this cooperatively," she said, "but we need to choose community over conflict."
For her finale, 5-year-old Katherine and 7-year-old Charles joined her at the podium and Charles told the town board how much he likes Elizabeth Lane Elementary, his CMS school.
Raab said afterward that she was caught off guard by Philip's restlessness — he was itching to grab a box of tissues he had spotted under the podium, she says — but she had some skills under her belt. She's a full-time mom with an undergraduate degree in public speaking. And she says she once sang a solo with Philip in the sling, though he was quiet that time.
"I really thought he was going to be OK. He just was not having it," Raab said.
Raab, whose husband wasn't available to look after the kids while she attended the town meeting, said there's a serious point to be gleaned about how hard it can be for parents to take part in civic life.
It's a timely point. CMS has argued that Matthews officials haven't done enough to gauge whether parents of school-age kids really support the town charter option. CMS and Matthews leaders have been talking about the clash of perspectives over the bill for months, with many of the meetings held behind closed doors.
Raab said she only recently heard about the possibility of a town-sponsored charter school and the district's arguments that it could lead to reassignment of Matthews students.
On Thursday, CMS announced plans to hold its own town hall meeting to share the district's perspective and hear Matthews' residents thoughts. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Providence High School, 1800 Pineville-Matthews Road.