People rolled their eyes at each other, frustrated folks flung their hands in the air, and there was at least one accusation of being "sneaky."
A scene from a trash-TV talk show?
No. It was the heated discussion of high school attendance boundaries at Monday's Cabarrus County school board meeting.
One other reassignment plan had smoother sailing. The board unanimously approved moving some students from Coltrane-Webb Elementary School to W.M. Irvin Elementary, making room for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) magnet program at Coltrane-Webb. Rising fifth-graders will have the option to stay at the school.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Then the board took up a plan to reduce enrollment at J.N. Fries Middle School to make room for a STEM magnet program there. Some students would be moved to the new Harold E. Winkler Middle School, expected to open next August.But as the board considered that plan, discussion moved into the idea of aligning middle and high school boundaries. That's what started raising hackles.
At the center of the debate were a staff proposal and an alternative plan to redraw attendance lines for Northwest Cabarrus, Jay M. Robinson and Concord high schools.
Last May, in the face of contentious opposition by parents in the Laurel Park neighborhood, the board delayed action on a plan to move students who live there from Robinson High to Northwest Cabarrus.
After that packed public hearing, the board formed a task force to create guidelines for attendance boundaries, then draw an attendance map for the whole district.
The staff task force developed its plan over the summer after a parent survey and presented it Monday. It was based on the "feeder school" approach: aligning each middle school's attendance boundaries with one high school.
But on Oct.4 the board asked Amendum also to create an alternative plan. It would affect areas south of Poplar Tent Road, including Laurel Park, and depart from the feeder school idea: Students there who now attend Northwest Cabarrus Middle, then Jay M. Robinson High, would attend Winkler Middle and then Northwest Cabarrus High instead.
That would send Laurel Park residents to the same schools as under the May proposal that angered them. That plan came up during discussion of middle school boundaries.
On Monday, Laurel Park residents filled one side of the meeting room. During the public hearing they said they were disappointed to see the May proposal brought up again.
"Why were we here in the past? It's as if it didn't matter," said Laurel Park resident Jim Stahl.
Associate Superintendent Jim Amendum, who manages attendance boundaries, said he was upset by the board's Oct. 4 request for a new plan.
"I was very upset by the flipflop that occurred on Monday (Oct. 4)," he told the board. "Saying I was blindsided was very accurate."
Amendum said the guidelines created by the task force in July made the feeder school approach a priority, in response to the parent survey.
"At the last minute ... we get an alternate proposal," he said. "I feel that defeats the integrity of the agreement we made last July."
Board member Holly Blackwelder defended the Oct. 4 proposal, explaining the July agreement. She said the feeder concept was impractical.
"We agreed to have the staff bring forth a proposal, to (see) what it would look like to try to align middle schools to high schools," she said. "That doesn't work."
A case in point, Blackwelder said, is Northwest Cabarrus Middle and Northwest Cabarrus High.
"Northwest Middle ... has a capacity of 850 (students)," Blackwelder said. "Northwest High has almost 1,400. Right there ... (the two schools don't) align with each other."
Amendum said the staff plan took many such problems into account. He said it recognized that pulling students from Jay M. Robinson High makes little sense when Cox Mill, Central Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge high schools are expected to face more severe overcrowding issues in coming years.
"What good does it do to move students out of Jay Robinson when you have other high schools that are going to grow at a faster rate?" Amendum said. " ... We researched that thoroughly."
Board chairman Wayne Williams said he didn't like the way the staff plan would affect Concord High School.
"I look at numbers, and I look at the destruction of Concord High School, which the plan would do," Williams said. "I know people don't like to talk about it, but you'll completely change the demographics of Concord High School."
Amendum said the staff plan intentionally reduced enrollment at Concord High to make room for an International Baccalaureate program there.
But Blackwelder said an IB program may not ever happen.
"What if the people coming in (board members to be elected Nov. 2) don't even like an IB program?" she said. "We're banking on an IB program that may not even become reality."
Finally, board member Cindy Fertenbaugh's motion to adopt the staff plan died for lack of a second.
The alternative plan was never placed on the agenda.
By a 5-2 vote, the board adopted the plan to move some J.N. Fries Middle School students to Winkler Middle. Those students still will attend Robinson High.
Fertenbaugh amended the motion to exclude the Royal Oaks neighborhood from being moved to Northwest Middle. Those students will stay at Concord Middle School.
Board members Andrea Palo and Carolyn Carpenter voted against the move, saying they needed more information.