CMS board will have a new District 4 member for the first time in 12 years

Early voting for the Nov. 7 Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board election starts Oct. 19.
Early voting for the Nov. 7 Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board election starts Oct. 19.

For 12 years Tom Tate has represented east Charlotte on the school board. Now that he’s stepping down, three candidates are working to take his place in District 4.

Tate is backing Carol Sawyer, a longtime education activist making her first run for office. Queen Thompson, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee, is making her third try for the board. And Stephanie Sneed is a newcomer who has pulled some important endorsements.

The district includes the heart of Charlotte’s booming international community and some of its trendiest neighborhoods. All three candidates say their mission is making sure poverty and language barriers don’t stop students from getting a fair chance at success.

The CMS board’s six district seats are up for election Nov. 7, with early voting starting Oct. 19. The three at-large seats will be up for election in 2019.

Sawyer, whose only child graduated from East Mecklenburg High, served on the board’s Equity Committee and has long been monitoring school board meetings. She co-founded Mecklenburg ACTS, which worked to reduce CMS’ emphasis on standardized testing, and OneMeck, which pushed for a student assignment plan that would create socioeconomic diversity in schools. She geared up her school board campaign in October 2016 and has the support not only of Tate but of Louise Woods, who represented the district before him.

Sawyer says she’d like to see CMS expand a paired-school approach that was approved last spring and takes effect in August, combining the populations of two elementary schools to create more diversity and make better use of buildings.

Thompson, a retired social worker who worked in dropout prevention for CMS, says she and her entire family attended CMS. She’s trying again to persuade voters that her experience gives her the best insights into helping students who face challenges. She has worked in alternative schools and says she has found ways to engage students and recruit personal advocates for students whose parents can’t fill that role. She made her first run for school board in 2003, soon after leaving CMS. She sued the district, saying she had faced racial discrimination on the job.

Thompson says CMS should do a better job teaching behavior and social skills to students, parents and staff. She says she “does not accept” the student assignment plan the board approved earlier this year, but didn’t say how she’d like to revise it.

Sneed, a lawyer and CMS parent, is making her first run for public office, though she has volunteered at her daughter’s school and led a Girl Scout troop. She supports a moratorium on K-2 suspensions as one step toward providing equal opportunities for all students.

Sneed has been endorsed by the Black Political Caucus. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators endorsed both Sneed and Sawyer, the group’s only split endorsement.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

District 4

The district

Covers east Charlotte.

Fewer than 100,000 registered voters, the smallest of the six districts. 57 percent are Democrats, 29 percent unaffiliated, 14 percent Republican.

Carol Sawyer

CMS connections: Parent of a CMS graduate, former member of the CMS Equity Committee and founder of advocacy groups OneMeck and Mecklenburg ACTS.

Political experience: First run for office.

Occupation: Consultant to nonprofit groups.

Lives in: Plaza Midwood.

Age: 59.

Top issue: Breaking the predictive link between where students live and how well they do in school.


Stephanie Sneed

CMS connections: Parent and volunteer.

Political experience: First run for office.

Occupation: Lawyer.

Lives in: District 4.

Age: 42.

Top issue: Closing the achievement gap and ensuring equity.


Queen Thompson

CMS connections: Entire family graduated from CMS; former CMS employee doing dropout prevention work.

Political experience: Ran for CMS board in 2003 and 2013.

Occupation: Retired social worker.

Lives in: Hickory Grove area.

Age: 71.

Top issue: Rallying the community to support equitable education.

Contact:, @votequeenT on Facebook.