Large field to compete for three at-large CMS school board seats

Thirteen candidates are competing for three seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.
Thirteen candidates are competing for three seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board. AP

Thirteen candidates are competing for three seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board — all while trying to stand out amid uncertainty over a superintendent search. Filing closed Friday.

Clayton Wilcox will resign as superintendent effective Aug. 2.

Several candidates have criticized the high turnover of superintendents in recent years, but most have been reluctant to explicitly condemn or praise the current board’s handling of the situation.

Three at-large seats are up for grabs on the nine-member board. Seats on the board are up for re-election every two years on a rotating basis.

Voters will only find one incumbent on the ballot: current Vice Chair Elyse Dashew, first elected in 2015.

That means at least two new people will join the board after Board Chair Mary McCray and Ericka Ellis-Stewart leave their seats this year. McCray, who was first elected in 2011, is retiring, and Ellis-Stewart, also elected in 2011, is leaving her seat to pursue other advocacy within the community.

The race for the other two seats are likely to be more competitive, and the pool is diverse — candidates are education advocates through various community groups, parents or former teachers themselves.

Here are the candidates:

Elyse Dashew is the current vice chairperson of the board, and she is running for re-election at large.

Jennifer De La Jara is the director of education at the International House in Charlotte, where she oversees literacy partnerships with CMS schools. She was a K-5 ESL teacher in Cabarrus County for five years.

Gregory Denlea has lived in Charlotte for 16 years and was a professor at the University of Phoenix for 15 years.

Donna Parker-Tate was a teacher, assistant principal and principal in CMS for over 40 years. After retiring, she trained principals nationwide with Teachscape and became an education consultant for Durham and Wayne County Schools.

Jordan Pineda taught sophomore English for three years at West Mecklenburg High School through Teach for America before starting a nonprofit called City to Cea, which works “specifically with young boys of color to dismantle toxic perceptions of masculinity, reduce recidivism rates and systemically increase academic achievement,” according to his website.

Lenora Sanders Shipp retired after 33 years of working for CMS, both as a principal and a teacher at several schools, including First Ward Elementary School and Nations Ford Elementary School.

Stephanie Sneed, a former trial attorney for child protective services, ran unsuccessfully for a District 4 seat in the 2017 election. She serves on the board of the Thomasboro Foundation and is a member of the CLT Westside Education Think Tank. She also is a member of the education committee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Black Political Caucus.

Monty Witherspoon is a pastor at Steele Creeke AME Zion Church and a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Black Political Caucus. He previously was a substitute teacher in New York City.

Annette Albright is a former CMS administrator who sued the district after being attacked by a student at Harding High School in 2016. CMS settled the lawsuit. She ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 seat in 2017.

Duncan St. Clair is a Charlotte native and former CMS student.

Queen Thompson is a retired CMS employee who monitored federal compliance and coordinated services for students with special needs. She was previously a candidate for Mecklenburg County commissioner in 2018 and for District 4 on the school board in 2017.

Olivia Scott ran for District 3 on the school board unsuccessfully in 2017.

Jenna Moorehead, a candidate who filed Thursday, did not provide an email or phone number and could not be reached for comment.

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