Two of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board’s most experienced members, Tom Tate and Eric Davis, say they won’t run for re-election in 2017, setting up a leadership shift that goes beyond the arrival of a new superintendent.
The board’s six district seats are up for election in November. Three incumbents – Rhonda Lennon in District 1, Thelma Byers-Bailey in District 2 and Ruby Jones in District 3 – say they plan to run, while Paul Bailey in District 6 says he’s not ready to announce a decision.
School board members serve four-year terms. The three at-large posts will come up for election in 2019.
The board is nearing the end of a superintendent search, with Superintendent Ann Clark preparing to hand off to a new leader in the first half of 2017.
Candidates for the district school board seats can’t file until summer, but current members and prospective candidates started making plans even before the 2016 election was over.
Tate, a Presbyterian minister who has represented the east Charlotte District 4 for 12 years, has long said he doesn’t plan to seek a fourth term. He chairs the board’s policy committee, a position that has put him at the forefront of the school board’s ongoing student assignment review.
Carol Sawyer, a longtime education advocate who helped create Mecklenburg ACTS and One Meck, announced her candidacy in early October. Tate has endorsed Sawyer, who’s the mother of an East Mecklenburg High School graduate.
Eric Davis, an engineer who is finishing his second term representing CMS’ south-central District 5, was named to the North Carolina Board of Education in 2015. He says he plans to focus on that work, rather than keep trying to juggle both posts. Davis chaired the CMS board in 2010 and 2011, taking a lead role in a controversial school closing and consolidation plan.
Jeremy Stephenson, a lawyer whose daughter attends a charter school for highly gifted students, says he plans to seek the District 5 seat. Stephenson ran at large in 2015, finishing fourth in the nine-person race for three spots.
If she’s elected to a third term, Lennon, who represents the northern suburbs, will be the board’s senior member. Byers-Bailey, who represents west and southwest Charlotte, and Bailey, who represents the southeastern suburbs, were elected in in 2013. Jones was appointed to represent northeast Charlotte in 2015, after District 3 board member Joyce Waddell was elected to the state Senate.