Richard Eschert could come to only one conclusion Saturday when he scanned the crowd at the Ballantyne Breakfast Club he started in 2001 and saw a bunch of candidates.
“Must be having an election soon,” Eschert said. “Otherwise, you don’t see ‘em.”
Indeed, the club is a required stop for candidates during election time. Saturday, candidates for local and state offices infiltrated the crowd at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge more to shake hands than to hear leaders of Charlotte education institutions talk about goals for the fast-approaching school year.
Yet before they campaigned, they listened to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois and Richard Zollinger, Central Piedmont Community College’s vice president for learning and workforce development.
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Here’s some of what they said:
Clark: The CMS superintendent opened by saying the district still lacks 135 teachers and deputized the gathered as recruiters for CMS. “I invite you to send us your candidates,” Clark said. “We have 147,000 students ... We have 168 schools. My greatest worry is the teacher pipeline.”
She said every person in the room knows a great teacher who may live elsewhere. “We have an amazing city with lots of the amenities. And the Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl this year ... Who wouldn’t want to be in Charlotte?”
Clark said the district will focus – like it never has – on getting elementary school students reading at grade level before they enter 4th grade. That grade, she said, is “a point ... that you need to be able to read to learn and not still be learning to read. The pictures go away. The paragraphs get longer and the vocabulary is more complicated. If you’re still trying to learn to read, that is the moment in time when you start falling behind.”
Dubois: Starting his 11th year as UNCC’s chancellor, Dubois said the university continues to be the fastest growing in the UNC System, destined for 35,000 students. He said the school is drawing better students and continuing to grow academic programs particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies.
More than half the students are majoring on those subjects, he said. He stressed to state legislators at the breakfast club the need for the $90 million requested by UNCC for a new science building.
“It’s absolutely critical that we get it funded, if possible in the next year or so,” he said.
Zollinger: Each speaker talked about how their school is connected to the others. CPCC has opened three middle colleges for 11th and 12th grade CMS students. Dubois touted UNCC’s Early-College High School, a STEM magnet school opened last year with CMS that will admit another 100 students when school opens.
Mostly Zollinger promoted CPCC’s partnership with local companies to train and develop worker pipelines in the healthcare, energy, finance, manufacturing and global logistics industries.
“All of a sudden Charlotte is becoming a major player in global logistics,” he said. “We need to be building pipelines so we have individuals who are trained and have skill sets to support that.”