Education

McCray re-elected as CMS board chair, Montessori high school approved

Mary McCray, with daughter Lauren, takes the oath as Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board member. She was also re-elected as chair of the board.
Mary McCray, with daughter Lauren, takes the oath as Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board member. She was also re-elected as chair of the board. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board re-elected Mary McCray to a fourth year as chairman, but the voting indicates the board is divided.

McCray, a retired teacher and former president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, was chosen on a 7-0 vote, with Eric Davis and Paul Bailey abstaining.

Elyse Dashew, who was sworn in Tuesday to the seat being vacated by Tim Morgan, was also chosen for his spot as vice chair on a 6-3 vote. Dashew, McCray, Davis, Rhonda Lennon, Tom Tate and Thelma Byers-Bailey voted for Dashew, while Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Bailey and Ruby Jones voted for Ellis-Stewart, who won the most votes in the Nov. 3 countywide election.

There was no discussion before either of the votes. Board members often hash out their choices for the leadership spots behind closed doors and emerge with a unanimous vote.

Also Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to add ninth-graders to the Montessori magnet program at Sedgefield Middle School next year. It’s a first step toward creating the district’s first Montessori high school, though a long-term home for the high school remains to be found.

Sedgefield parents and faculty have spent years lobbying for a high school option, saying it will build support for the middle school and make CMS a national model. The Montessori high school was not part of the magnet plan for 2016-17 approved last month because Superintendent Ann Clark said she was reluctant to make the change without a long-range plan. But she said Tuesday she believes she’ll have a facility chosen early next year.

“I wouldn’t be bringing forward a recommendation unless I saw some scenarios on the horizon,” Clark told the board.

The ninth-grade expansion will be small, with about 25 students expected. Sedgefield’s Montessori eighth-graders will automatically stay there unless they select another school. Others can apply if they have Montessori experience. The cost is estimated at around $250,000 to hire and train two teachers and buy materials.

While Mary McCray was re-elected chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board, newcomer Elyse Dashew was elected the board's vice chair.

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

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