The lines were clearly drawn as the Union County Board of Education voted on a successor to Marce Savage for the District 6 seat.
The three board members sitting on one side of Superintendent Mary Ellis supported Sean Maher or Kathleen Heintel. The five board members sitting on Ellis’ other side supported Jason Marton, who had unsuccessfully run against Savage for the seat in last November’s election.
After motions supporting Maher and Heintel failed 3-5, the board voted 5-3 to appoint Jason Marton.
Those voting for Marton were Kevin Stewart, John Collins, Leslie Boyd, Christina Helms and Michael Guzman, who made the motion. Those opposed were Melissa Merrell, Sharon Harrell and Gary Sides.
Marton, Maher and Heintel were named finalists for the position after the board’s Strategic Planning and Technology Committee narrowed the list of 11 District 6 residents who submitted letters of interest after Savage resigned.
Harrell, Merrell, Boyd and Guzman are members of the committee.
Boyd, who won an at-large seat in November’s election, said she “actually lives in District 6,” and that residents there had reached out to her to show their support for Marton. She said she believed his experience in strategic planning and finance would prove valuable.
Marton has been a management consultant for 16 years and works for RGP, according to the resume he submitted to the board.
“Mr. Marton and I will not agree on everything,” Boyd said. “The thing is, we will be able to work as adults. We’ll be able to walk out of this room and know that this is not about me. This is not about you. It is about them, the children of Union County Public Schools. That’s what this is about.”
Sides said he has serious concerns about Marton’s ability to devote the time necessary for the position because he works in uptown Charlotte and his job “entails travel.”
During the public comment session earlier in the meeting, Frank Cappella spoke on behalf of a group of District 6 residents favoring Maher or Heintel for the seat because they opposed the controversial redistricting plan approved by the board in March 2014. He said Marton stood with the board’s redistricting decision.
“So there it is,” Cappella said. “Two distinct directions. One direction offers the chance of renewal, forgiveness and shared purpose. The other direction will be seen as the final act of division, easy payback and isolation.”
After the meeting, Cappella said he was extremely disappointed. He saw the vote for Marton as “a missed opportunity and a (missed) chance for a new beginning and for real healing in an area of Union County that’s very banged up and hurt from redistricting. … It’s a completely missed opportunity and one that I think we’re going to wish we had back someday … because we live in a very divisive community.”
Marton said after the meeting he was honored to be selected and humbled by the support he and his family had experienced from District 6 residents.
His focus now, he said, is “communication throughout the district to rebuild that trust.”
The vote for the District 6 seat was near the end of the three-hour meeting. Earlier in the meeting, the board unanimously approved a plan to waive four makeup days for students – including two of the three days missed in February because of inclement weather.
A makeup day already has been held for students on a traditional calendar, and one is scheduled March 16 for students on a year-round calendar. Another two days can be used if needed, the board agreed.
The board also unanimously approved a Community Construction Equity Plan presented by Mike Webb, deputy superintendent of instructional technology and operations.
The plan, estimated to cost $227 million, identifies and prioritizes school repairs and improvements over the next eight years. It will be discussed by a seven-member committee, referred to as “the working group,” that is made up of school officials and school board members.
The group will then discuss the plan with the Union County Board of Commissioners during the budgeting process.
The plan is posted online at http://bit.ly/1wEvLC2.
Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.