Elections

19 Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board candidates outline their views, qualifications

Students arrive at J.M. Alexander Middle School, one of 176 the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board oversees.
Students arrive at J.M. Alexander Middle School, one of 176 the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board oversees. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg voters will choose six district representatives to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board on Nov. 7. Each voter will have only one district race on the ballot.

The Observer asked all candidates about their background and qualifications and posed questions about school turnaround, teachers, school choice, student assignment and discipline.

Here are the unedited responses of the 19 active candidates. Amy Moon Hallman will also be on the District 1 ballot but has said she changed her mind about running.

DISTRICT 1

Annette Albright

Age: 51.

Education: Highest level- Master’s of Science - Organizational Management and Leadership Development.

Annette Albright
Annette Albright

Professional experience: I was employed for years 14 years with the NC Department of Corrections in various positions with the last 8 of those years serving as a Probation/Parole Officer. I was also employed with Mecklenburg County LUESA in the role of Residential Permitting Manager and 3 years in the role of Child Support Enforcement Officer II. From 2013-2016 I was employed with CMS in various positions to include substitute teacher, tutor, and Behavior Modification Technician.

Previous public offices held: N/A

Family: I am a divorced mother of 2 daughters, Jade Woodbury age 30, and Monae Albright age 20 and two sons Jordan Albright age 16, and Malik Albright age 13. We also have a furry family member named Frosty.

Website: Still building this

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Charlotte/Coulwood Area

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: My first experience with CMS was when my oldest daughter (who is now 30 years old) attended school in this district. Elementary school was amazing but once she started to attend middle school I saw a huge change in her grades and behavior. I decided to visit her school (Coulwood Middle) and was shocked at the lack of structure and discipline. I eventually pulled her from CMS and sent her to live with her father in Mount Airy in order to complete her high school education.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

I consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years to be repairing the damaged relationship the board currently has with the citizens of Charlotte.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

To increase the lowest-performing students and schools opportunities, the board needs a comprehensive study of individual schools and students to discover barriers that are preventing students and schools from being successful. The cookie cutter approach to addressing educational needs is not working and hasn’t worked for years.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

In order to ensure CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options CMS should make students its first priority and not politics. CMS board members must work with city and community partners to fill in some of the gaps. This means school board members must be advocates for their schools and must be engaged with community efforts. The job reaches far beyond just attending school board meetings. School boards members must also incorporate their community’s views when making decisions for the school district.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

In order to retain and support high-performing faculty, the first step the board should take is to request that the current superintendent creates and implement a workforce culture improvement plan. Progress reports should be submitted to the board in order to gauge the results of this effort. As a component of this plan, the board and the superintendent should review and update personnel policies and procedures. In addition, CMS must hire HR professionals and an outside agency should be contracted to provide ombudsmen services for staff and teachers.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I don’t support the entire school assignment plan but there are parts of it that I do approve of. First, we need strong neighborhood schools in all communities. Creating strong neighborhood schools in all communities will create the diversity that CMS is trying to force on the citizens of Mecklenburg County via student assignments. I would change the assignment plan by expanding the choice of magnet options.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Absolutely!!!! On my list of priorities!! Student discipline has become a hot button topic in the community. Several factors play into the way CMS handles discipline making this is a very complicated issue with many layers. CMS must work harder to discover the root causes of challenging behaviors and providing access to resources to students and the families of those students while still holding students responsible for unacceptable conduct. I would also like to see a policy that makes the consequence for any student convicted of assault on a staff member to be automatic expulsion for the remainder of the school year for students aged 16 and over and automatic alternative placement for the remainder of the year for students under the age of 15. CMS also needs to review their disciplinary policy and matrix to ensure that both are fair, consistent, and work actively to deter challenging behaviors.

Rhonda Lennon

Age: 56.

Education: Graduate of South Mecklenburg HS

UNCC-BA Business Administration

CPCC- Associate Degree in Nursing

Rhonda Lennon 2017
Rhonda Lennon

Professional experience: Case Manager with Genex Services

Licensed Register Nurse and Real Estate Broker

Have spent my professional career in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Previous public offices held: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education since 2009

Family: Mother of 3 children-Amanda 25, Madison 24 (North Mecklenburg HS Alums) and Mason, 15 attends Hough HS

Mother- Beth Garner of Huntersville

Sister- Tanya Knutson and her husband Mike of Huntersville and their children Max and Julia (Hopewell HS Alums)

Website: www.rhondalennon.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Cornelius

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, District 1

Chair of Intergovernmental Relations Committee

Member of Facilities Committee, Past member of Policy Committee

Founder and Leader of FUME (Families United for North Meck Education)- a grassroots advocacy group that successfully lobbied to increase school construction in North Mecklenburg

2004 NC PTA Oak Leaf Award for Outstanding PTA Volunteer

Citizens’ Capital Budget Advisory Committee 2004-2008 (Appointed by the BOE, Served as Vice-Chair and also chaired CMS and CPCC Sub-Committees)

School Building Solutions Committee (Governor Martin’s Committee) 2006

Superintendent’s Standards Review Committee 2007

Huntersville School Advisory Committee 2008-2009

Charlotte Advocates for Education- Board of Directors 2005

PTA Board at David Cox ES, Huntersville ES, North Meck HS

CMS Graduate of South Mecklenburg High School

Mother of 2 CMS graduates and 1 current student

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

With a new superintendent and at least a few new board members, the biggest challenge is building relationships and finding a path to collaborative and effective leadership. The work of the board cannot advance until we find common ground to work together in positive and constructive ways.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

The most important factor influencing academic success is the presence of an adult in every child’s life to mentor and shepherd a child on their academic journey. We must continue to build community partnerships with successful organizations like Big Brother/Big Sisters, Goodwill CLAY, YMCA Achievers, North Start Literacy Initiative and others so that every student is reached.

In addition, we must implement

a. Comprehensive early childhood education

b. Stronger services to assist with the social, medical and mental health needs of students

c. Effective programs, leadership and teachers in every school

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

CMS must ensure the every school in every zip code is providing a rich academic experience in a safe learning environment. We need strong neighborhood schools and robust magnet offerings throughout the county.

CMS is excelling in their high school programs designed to provide industry validated career pathways, and this must expand. Our trade and skill based programs at North Meck HS are growing, and our students are being prepared for a well paid career and a pathway to continued education after high school.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

I will continue working with the NCGA on increasing teacher and staff pay. Much progress has been made, but we still have room to improve. The Board must ensure that each teacher has a safe working environment, quality professional development and effective leadership. Our new Superintendent is placing high priority on revamping and improving the Human Resources Dept. This is crucial from recruitment to retention.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I have been and will continue to be a vocal supporter of a neighborhood based student assignment plan. CMS must keep a strong neighborhood student assignment plan, with a rich array of magnet choices throughout the county. I will continue to work with my colleagues and with staff to make sure that every school in every zip code is academically successful and provides a safe learning environment.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

We must provide a safe environment for our students and staff. I would like CMS to adopt a more pro-active approach to identify students at high risk for repeated suspensions and discipline issues so that intervention programs can be implanted with the students and families. We need to address the social, emotional and mental health needs of students with a comprehensive approach that reaches beyond CMS and engages the BOCC and the entire community.

Jess Miller

Age: 34.

Education: I believe in the power of public education because in middle school I was a reluctant reader, from a single parent home, and had truancy and behavior issues. But it was my teachers, coaches and community that took me from that student to being the first person in my family to go right from high school to a 4-year college. I graduated, cum laude, from Furman University in 2005. Since then I have also earned my Masters in Arts for Elementary Education from Johns Hopkins (2009), and my MPA in Nonprofit management (2011) and MBA in 2012 from the Keller Graduate School of Management. Finally, I just graduated this spring from UNCC with my certificate in School Administration. I am currently a certified elementary and middle grades science teacher in NC and will receive my principal’s license this year.

Jess Miller
Jess Miller

Professional experience: This fall will be my 13th year in education. I was a teacher for 6 years, and for the past 6 years I have worked in a variety of roles in curriculum development, administration, teacher coaching and professional development. The vast majority of this work, including my time as a teacher, was in and with schools with very high concentrations of poverty so I know what it takes to drive successful teaching and learning in high poverty schools, and I know what incredible things are possible when we have high expectations for all kids in our district. I’ve also worked as a community organizer in the community as part of the team that worked on the Restorative Justice pilot in the Vance feeder pattern, and worked this year to elevate over 120 minutes of student, teacher and family voice at school board meetings. I feel very strongly that my 13 years of experience as an educator and community organizer would be a huge value-add for the Board at this critical time in Charlotte’s education history.

Previous public offices held: None

Family: My husband, Avery, and I have been married 11 years this October. We moved to Charlotte in 2009 to get closer to our family in the Charlotte and upstate of South Carolina, including several nieces, nephews, and other extended family members that are in local public schools, including in several CMS schools. This isn’t my first time in Charlotte however. My dad lived in Charlotte for several years when I was a child and I actually lived in Charlotte in the summer of 1999 and worked at Carowinds as a 15-yr old, back when 15-yr-olds could work there and wore the blue collared shirts.

Website: www.JessforCMS.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Mallard Creek/ Highland Creek/ Prosperity Church

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I’ve been in public education for 12 years, including work with CMS schools and charter schools here in Charlotte and across the state. I have worked as an independent contractor for a CMS school directly for multiple years, and have completed observations and evaluations of new teachers in CMS in schools across the district, from Hopewell in District 1 to Jay M. Robinson in District 6 as part of the lateral entry and teacher recruitment initiatives. Over the past several years I have been a relentless advocate for equity and excellence for all kids in CMS, providing testimony at school board meetings on multiple occasions, organizing community driven efforts and campaigns for restorative justice and transparency in governance, as well as working directly with students, teachers and CMS families from multiple schools to advocate for their constitutional right to an equitable education.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Equity is THE issue we face in CMS, and there is a myriad of ways this impacts the teaching and learning in classrooms in our district, including teacher quality, facilities, discipline disparities, and educational materials. CMS is currently out of compliance with its own Equity policy, Policy ADA. Policy ADA was instituted after the District was declared unitary and bussing ended in order to ensure equity remained a focus in the changing District. The policy calls for an Annual Report on Equity and for the policy to be revised every 3 years, although neither has been done since 2010. This is the first issue we must tackle. The District has the data and needs to compile and release the report so that we can have an open, honest and informed conversation about what equity related issues exist at the school and district level.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

It starts with The Annual Equity Report per policy ADA. Without grounding our conversation and work in data that is presented to the community with transparency and reliability, our efforts will lack the vision and focus necessary to make the impact that our students so urgently need and deserve. A couple years ago I worked as an education consultant with a school that had received an “F” grade. In 1 school year we were able to increase student proficiency and the school received a “C” and had one of the highest growth rates in the state. How? We focused on teaching and learning at high levels with data-driven instruction and provided individual coaching and group professional development for teachers. These are research based best practices and experience I would bring to the Board. It starts with the expectation that all of our students are capable of achievement. This is why I call it an opportunity gap, NOT an achievement gap. What my 12 years of experience has shown me is that when students are given the opportunity to learn and achieve at high levels, they almost always achieve.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Whether you read the results of the student assignment survey from last year or get out into the community and talk with folks, people across the district are clear: everyone wants a great school close to home with other specialty options available. That’s what CMS needs to focus on: excellent schools in every neighborhood and a broad array of options that prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow and build on the talents and abilities they bring to the table. Beyond that, CMS needs to do a lot of work on its relationship with the community. People want to trust the folks they send their children to every day, and that trust has been eroded over recent years because of how the Board and District have handled a variety of issues and situations. But imagine a scenario where it wasn’t just about competition with charter schools, but our District working in partnership with them to the benefit of all kids and families in our communities. As someone who works in both the traditional and charter school worlds, I have seen opportunities for partnership, and I believe strongly that this is a way that District 1 can be a leader not only in CMS but across the state. We have great traditional and charter schools in District 1, and families that support both. It’s time to change the tone of the conversation between the District and charter schools, but it will take tough conversations and bold leadership. I’m ready to do that work because it is our students and community that will benefit.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

This is one of the biggest takeaways the district can and should learn from Project LIFT. Opportunity Culture, already spreading to other CMS schools as Success by Design, is all about attracting, retaining and supporting high-performing faculty in our schools that need them the most. This model provides pathways for teachers to grow their impact without having to leave the classroom and enter administrative roles, keeping them close to teaching and learning with students. When a teacher has a proven track record of success, particularly in high poverty environments, we should look for every opportunity to support their continued growth as a professional and give them the opportunity to impact students beyond just their own classroom. And we should compensate them for this. That’s what this model does, it has been driving transformative results in districts across the country, and we must continue to get it into every school that would benefit.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I fully support A mix of neighborhood-based assignments a choice options. That’s what the people of our community want- a great school close to home and other, specialized options they can choose to take advantage of. The real issue here is that our school boundaries have historically exacerbated patterns of residential segregation instead of mitigating that isolation. As we entered phase 2 of student assignment we had 40 schools where more than 70% of students lived in low-SES (higher poverty) tracts. At the same time, we had 63 schools with less than 20% of students from low-SES tracts. Phase 2 did very little to address this. We have to own the fact that as a community we have allowed our schools to resegregate, we have allowed for gerrymandered boundaries to exist, and in order for our community to move forward, particularly in light of the Opportunity Task Force report, we have to be ready for difficult conversations. The great thing about this is that folks across our community are starting to have those conversations in their churches, book clubs, community groups, and public forums. One of the most disappointing things for me about Phase 2 student assignment is that the District did NOT tap into community leaders and organizers enough, and as a result I believe that we missed out on an opportunity to have a bigger impact. The community was ready to do the work, and our District and Board leaders need to be willing to step back, let the community take the lead, and facilitate the process.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

2 years ago I was part of the community group that was at the table with district leaders starting a Restorative Justice pilot program in the Vance feeder pattern. We organized around that issue because of the discrepancies in student discipline. Black students account for about 40% of CMS enrollment but 80% of suspensions, and this disparity begins in PreK. We know that suspension is often the first step on the school-to-prison pipeline so if we are going to change outcomes for kids we need to change our practices. There are 3 things the Board can, and should do immediately. First, school level policies (i.e. uniforms, bookbags, etc) should be dealt with at the school level, suspension should not be an option for these infractions because not everyone in the District is subject to them. Second, truancy should never result in suspension. Whether a student left campus during the day for lunch, skipped a class, or skipped a few days, suspending that student when they return to school is counterproductive. Finally, we should have a first quarter moratorium on suspensions for PreK-2, with an exception for incidents resulting in bodily harm. This is the time of year when the focus must be on teaching behavior to our youngest students, and sending them home doesn’t allow for that. In the long term, we must ramp up our pace of providing all District staff, not just teachers, with Dismantling Racism and cultural proficiency training.

DISTRICT 2

Thelma Byers-Bailey

Age: 74.

Education: West Charlotte Senior High School, 1961

Fisk University, 1965

St. Louis University School of Law, 1977

St. Louis University Joint Degree Program, 1978

Thelma Byers-Bailey
Thelma Byers-Bailey

Professional experience: Law Office of Thelma B. Bailey, Sacramento, California

Staff Attorney at Pasadena Legal Services

Data Processing Systems Analysis, State of California Dept. of Justice

Previous public offices held: Board of Education, District 2

Family: 2 adult children, 7 grandchildren

Website: www.thelmabyersbailey.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Lincoln Heights

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Tutored math students at Walter G. Byers Academy. Daughter of Walter G. Byers, Principal of Fairview Elementary School and Thelma B. Byers, high school home economics teacher.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Eliminating the gap in academic performance among the diverse ethnic groups of students we serve.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Staff these schools with our most capable administrators and teachers and provide these students with support services, tutors and mentors to help them become academically successful and to inspire them to believe they can succeed.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Continue to develop and support high quality magnet and neighborhood schools with diverse, well managed student bodies with access to relevant CTE offerings in addition to a variety of AP/IB offerings for our college bound students.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Continue to offer high quality professional development in addition to continuing to advocate for a competitive salary for our faculty.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I do support the magnet schools currently offered as well as those on the drawing board for the future. There are several aspects of the neighborhood assignments with which I did not agree because I did not believe everyone had an equal opportunity to express their opinion; however, I am committed to doing everything in my power to make sure it is successful in serving all the students it serves. I will be vigilant in making note of any deficits I observe or that are brought to my attention so that recommendations can be made for adjustments or changes.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes, we cannot continue to do the same things and expect a different result. Until we address the root causes for disciplinary outbursts things won’t change. To the extent that a lot of student/teacher conflict is rooted in discretionary perceptions, I believe that professional development addressing cultural competency for teachers and staff in schools where discipline seems to be disproportionally administered would be a first step toward a resolution. Our school board continues to look at our policy and has just recently made changes addressing this issue.

Lenora Shipp

Age: 59.

Education: Graduate of West Charlotte High School; Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education-Barber Scotia College; Masters of Arts Degree and Certification in Educational Administration with a concentration in management and supervision-Ohio State University; Masters in Curriculum and Instruction- University of North Carolina at Charlotte; and continuous studies at Local, State and National Institutions, Queens College- Executive Leadership Institute; University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill-Principal Executive Program (P.E.P.); Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (A.S.C.D.); and the National Education Partnership (N.E.C.P.).

Lenora Shipp
Lenora Shipp Mercy Littlejohn

Professional experience: Thirty-three (33) years in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools serving in various positions: Teacher at the Elementary and Secondary level; Professional Staff Development Trainer; Assistant Principal and 15 years Principal (Strategic Principal- 5 years). After retirement, continued to work part time supporting CMS as interim administrator and substitute working with teachers and staff.

Previous public offices held: None

Family: Widow(late husband- Latham Shipp); one daughter, Gianna Simone Shipp who attended CMS (K-12) graduating from Myers Park High School (IB Honor Student); 2016 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Virginia State University; 2017 graduate with a Masters in Biophysics, Physiology and Complimentary Alternative Medicine from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Website: lenorashipp.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Southwest Charlotte/Steele Creek Community also grew up in West Charlotte(Beatties Ford Road area)

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Graduate of West Charlotte Senior High School

33 Years Experience in CMS

Began my career as a teacher @ First Ward Elementary- 1981

Taught Science at the Secondary Level

Professional Development Trainer of Teachers and Staff at Staff Development Center

Assistant Principal at schools in District 2

Principal for 15 years- ( 2009-2014 - Named Strategic Principal at schools in District 2)

Proven track record of raising the bar and closing the achievement gap , making growth gains with at-risk population (Title I FOCUS Schools)

Consistent achievement of Average Yearly Progress (AYP) Goals resulting in School of Progress/School of Distinction and High Growth Status with the North Carolina State Accountability Standards

Winner of 2013 National School of Character - “Promising Practice Award"- Nations Ford Elementary and Sedgefield Elementary School in 2008.

Recognition as “A Math School of Excellence"- NC Teacher Association, Saxon Math Schools - Sedgefield Elementary

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Providing and advancing academic excellence for all student in CMS through diversity, equity and equality so that our students are career and college ready to become productive citizens.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

The Board needs to provide equity and diversity in the funding allocations that support quality facilities, resources and materials for the lowest performing students and schools. They should examine and evaluate the hiring practices to retain highly qualified teachers and staff in these schools. They must continue to work for increasing staff pay and providing incentives to the staff based on measured student growth; reducing class sizes and providing more teacher support in the classroom ( teacher assistants). The board needs to revisit Strategic Staffing practices that ensures a strong instructional leader( principal) with a proven track record of moving a school. A strong administrative team working with the principal to support teachers and staff for high levels of teaching and learning to take place. The board must review all School Improvement Plans for effective goals and objectives that maximizes student achievement; programs that are researched based , data driven and monitored with fidelity. We need to increase early learning with Pre-K programs in every school especially in our lowest performing schools.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

The board needs to develop and maintain a climate of trust and accountability with all stakeholders: parents, community, the Board of County Commissioners, City Council, and the schools. They need to be accountable for delivering on the promises that are made; the policies and practices that are put in place to maximize student achievement. The board should provide district town hall meetings quarterly to respond to community concerns especially those in the African American communities. The board should reconsider showcasing all our schools to the public in order to generate understanding, enthusiasm and a sense of pride in our communities.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

The board needs to advocate and support the need for equitable faculty working conditions in all schools, increasing pay and providing incentives for measured student growth and success. They need to continue working on allocations to reduce class sizes with additional teacher support in the classroom especially in our low performing schools. We need to provide greater teacher support through materials, resources and meaningful professional development in all schools.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

The new plan is a good start but did not go far enough. We still need to increase the level of diversity. We also need to look at the facilities in the neighborhood schools to ensure that they are brought up to standards. We must ensure appropriate resources will be funded to support quality implementation of the magnet school programs, especially the partial magnets. I believe that if equity and diversity are addressed and the playing field is equal in terms of highly qualified teachers and staff in these schools; the neighborhood-based assignments could be effective.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes. CMS needs to consistently review and evaluate The Students Rights and Responsibility Handbook and School Crisis plans. There should be consistency with implementation of consequences based on the student infraction as stated in the Students Rights and Responsibility Handbook. Principal discretion should be carefully monitored for fairness and equity. It should be done with fidelity across the board. We need to get parents in the schools to discuss discipline issues before suspensions occur. More effective Behavior Modification Technicians (BMT’s)) are needed in the schools to support the administration and teachers with classroom management, discipline issues. Ensure that teachers, especially new teachers have strong classroom management training. CMS needs to support the schools in the development of school wide behavior plans that include such programs as Character Education, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS). This would enhance a school climate that is safe and orderly for effective teaching and learning.

DISTRICT 3

Janeen Bryant

Age: 34.

Education: Claremont Graduate University Claremont, CA 2011 NextGen Museum Leaders Certification

Montreat College Charlotte, NC 2010 Master of Science, Management and Leadership

Davidson College Davidson, NC 2004 Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology: Ethnic Studies Concentration Bonner Scholar for Community Service, Kemp Scholar for distinguished research, Lilly Theological Vocation Fellow, Davidson Black Alumni Network Award for Service, Davidson in India Study Abroad participant, Domestic Exchange participant at Spelman College

Janeen Bryant 2017
Janeen Bryant

Professional experience: Principal Consultant & Founder, at Facilitate Movement, LLC Community-centered education through collaborative process development. Specialization in proactive strategies guiding institutions to address shifting demographics with responsive leadership that strengthens long-term vision, cultural competency, and empathy.

Regional Director, South, at Leadership for Educational Equity (2015-16) where I managed leadership and design teams on a range of issues from restorative justice to equity in leadership, social entrepreneurship and nonprofit management.

VP, Education at Levine Museum of the New South (2007-2015) where I spearheaded community, regional and national partnerships in the pursuit of Museum mission including more than 50 collaborations. Created, facilitated and evaluated dialogue programs on and off-site about issues relating to race, demographic change and community building. I also built and sustained authentic relationships with community stakeholders on initiatives such as LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality, Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Then and Now, and Latino New South Project.

Lead Teacher, Kindergarten, Briarwood Elementary (2004-2007) As part of Teach for America, supervised team of 5 veteran teachers; received STAR Teacher accreditation for individual classroom and grade level gains of 1.5 years growth for all students through implementation of a rigorous academic curriculum.

Previous public offices held: NONE

Family: One 11-year old daughter, Jordan

Website: www.janeenbryant.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: University Area

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I am a parent of a current CMS student who has attended CMS schools since kindergarten.

Additionally, I was honored to serve as a kindergarten classroom teacher and lead teacher at Briarwood Elementary, where I supervised team of five veteran and new teachers. Served as liaison between school personnel and Spanish-speaking parents.

After leaving the classroom, I created curriculum and educational programs for Levine Museum of the New South as it was the mandatory field trip for eighth graders in the district at the time. My job responsibilities included designing tours and school-based programs that met the requirements of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, differentiated instruction and related to a comprehensive exploration of post- Civil War North Carolina history (including Charlotte-specific education related topics). I went on to serve as VP, Education at Levine Museum overseeing and setting strategic direction for the institution’s public programs.

Since leaving the Museum, I worked with Leadership for Educational Equity. I was charged with building a civic movement that leveraged the staff, alumni and corps members of Teach for America’s collective strengths to transform education. Serving over 1,600 LEE members in six regions across the United States, I created, designed and implemented differentiated projects on topics such as restorative justice, equity, community organizing, and teacher voice.

I now volunteer in CMS schools, develop and facilitate teacher professional development, and support youth advocacy at the classroom and boardroom level.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

We know overwhelmingly that we are not serving ours students so what should we be doing differently? Next? Better?

I think the top challenge for CMS is making sure schools provide all students with optimal opportunities for success and therefore eliminate inequity in the system. The key to ensuring this is to start with an equity assessment to see how schools are currently performing. We need an updated, public and comprehensive report on all sorts of metrics (including test scores, teacher qualifications, building age, courses offered, disciplinary statistics, school resources, etc.) that allows us to pinpoint where there are inequities and deficits in our schools. The only way to truly end inequity is to fully begin to name it where it shows up. From there, we can use data as a catalyst to delve into issues and collaborate with the community for ways to truly address the concerns as well as set real deadlines and accountability measures for the identified/prioritized issues.

Quite frankly, we need to get past crisis mode--where the community and the Board are so driven by fear or feelings that we are not focusing on student-centered outcomes. After years of studies, we know we have an affordable housing crisis and hyper-segregation in Charlotte and we know how they connect and affect our schools, but fear is keeping us from moving past pockets of poverty. Our coalition-building should be with an eye toward justice and our advocacy toward equity. Compassion moves us beyond understanding; understanding moves us beyond the metrics; and the metrics should move us beyond our fear into transformative action.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Increasing opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools must be a priority of the Board. We need a multi-pronged approach to do so which includes 1.) school leaders--in consultation with parents, teachers and stakeholders--submitting action plans for equity measures that detail how they anticipate addressing the needs for their low-performing students as well as how they plan to connect to parents and support teachers and, very importantly, what partnerships they will seek in the community to create the progress/support needed. Along with this itemized plan, we need to 2.) continue/begin holding schools accountable for student success. Accountability looks like a needs-assessment, responsive change to what those reports show, and supported efforts/resources to create sustainable change. 3.) We also need to shift to having the most experienced educators work with the lowest performing students and most supportive administrative teams. This might mean having to rethink teacher incentives and resource allocation. Lastly, 4.) we need to continue the work of providing access to high quality schools within and beyond neighborhoods. This can be done through magnet schools but also additional programming within schools.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Across the board, parents want their children to experience high-quality education, excellent teachers and safety in their classrooms. We need to aim for every CMS school to meet or exceed those expectations. Our competitiveness depends first and foremost on our quality, and we cannot get around making sure our “product” --the education our students receive and the environments in which they achieve--is the best in the region.

Alongside ensuring quality schools, CMS needs to do a better job of promoting all of the wonderful things we do right. Statistics suggest that an average of 34 people move to Charlotte each day. As these newcomers get settled and start to plan for their families, they need to be able to access the CMS website so they need to know what the options are and how to navigate our system. How great would it be if you could type in your address, find your school zone and get a breakdown of all the great schools, programs, teachers, opportunities or even resources available at your local public school? At this point, our parent/community portals do not make it easy or clear to understand how schools educate and what particular programs are available in the district. A campaign to “sell” the great public school options and diversity of programs at each school would go a long way to compete with charter and private schools who certainly know how to promote their product.

Lastly, more work can be done around parent, community and school cohesiveness. Until parents feel they are a vital part of schools, and until those schools are once again hubs of their communities, many are not are not going to feel like they have a place in our school system. When people are informed, well-connected and invested, we can stay competitive.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

There are many ways to create attractive work packages--a mix of pay, benefits and perks. Given that, along with incentivizing high-performing faculty to continue to teach -- either by supplements to their pay or debt-relief, we also need to expand pipelines to bring in teachers from both our area colleges and nationally. Partnerships that let CMS get access to the cream of the crop of new teachers/educators and the resources to court and keep them will be essential.

Retention will take a mix of both increased teacher pay but also improving the conditions and expectations that teachers work under. Our teachers need to have their expertise and credentials valued as much as other professions such as bankers or healthcare workers. To that end, regular and effective professional development that enables growth, skill-building and a chance for higher pay would keep good teachers and provide support for those who want to bring more expertise to their classrooms.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

The current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice is definitely a start to correcting years of inequity in school assignment. However, there is more courageous and bold work that we can and should do to make sure that we fully address the problems of hyper-segregation. The current solutions for schools like Bruns and Ranson (among others) still leave much to be desired; we also need plans that address other areas of District 3 and the system as a whole that need attention. Great care should be taken to ensure that we are not perpetuating having under-represented communities bear the burden of school assignment.

Every zip code/school zone should have multiple highly desirable schools within it. It is not enough to move some students to “better” schools and leave others stuck in struggling school buildings. Alongside changing the boundaries and assignments, we must invest work in improving every school. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes. As a former kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how harsh and developmentally inappropriate disciplinary tactics can negatively affect a student’s psyche. Out-of-school suspensions do not address behavior nor make students reflect on why the behavior warranted discipline. At such a young age, we need our K-2 students to be in the classroom learning academic and social skills. Out-of-school suspensions should not be an option for that age group.

I would like to revive the conversations on restorative justice as a system-wide program with a focus on teacher training and community connection so that we can create awareness and sustained change about how we discipline the youngest of our students, but also how we prepare every student to deal with conflict, educational challenges, and each other for the rest of their lives.

Strategies such as as restorative justice offer a chance for a child to reflect and think about ways to address their behavioral issues. Restorative justice initiatives have had demonstrated success in Chicago and New York and can definitely serve as a model alongside the pilot/prototype that has started at Vance High School.

More so, we do not need armed security in our schools to handle student discipline. We must rethink how we discipline and create behavioral accountability as well as ensure safety for our students.

Emmitt Terrell Butts

Age: 49.

Education: B.S business Admin, master’s in school admin,doctorate in curriculum and Instruction

Emmitt Butts
Emmitt Butts

Professional experience: over 20 years of experience in public education

Previous public offices held: None

Family: 4 kids currently in CMS

Website:

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: District 3 university

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Previous coordinator at Wilson,and W Charlotte, Taught at Kennedy Middle school

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Transparency and community engagement

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Empower students,form parental partnerships,and engage the community

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Provide a product that meets the needs of both the marginized and the gifted and talented.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Recognition of the work they do through the following;

A)Step system in the supplement

B)Diversified career pathway to gretaer responsiblity in the teaching profession not just in administration.

C) Visionary and progressive mission for the school system.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

No I would create a system for equal access to all schools based on a hybrid system of checks and balances.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes I would change the system to include checks and balances to keep the students in the classroom and not miss insturctional time. I would include alternative discipline outcomes that facilitate instruction and learning not punishment.

Levester Flowers

Age: 68.

Education: B.A. Livingstone College Social Studies, M.Ed University of North Carolina at Charlotte, M Ed Social Studies and School Administration.

Levester Flowers
Levester Flowers

Professional experience: 9 years as a former school teacher and administrator twenty five plus years as a financial officer and mortgage loan officer. Retired from Bank of America .

Previous public offices held:

Family: Married, two adult children, one grandchild.

Website: www.flowersforschooldistrict3.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Maplewood, University City

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Education advocate, volunteer, mentor, substitute teacher, founder of Save Our Schools Initiative, narrowly missed being appointed to board by one vote in 2015.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Improving the academic standards of Beacon Initiative and Project Lift schools.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Provide more supportive services. Create a enhanced learning environment. Utilise the concept of individualized curriculum. Start career tracking of all students in grade seven.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Continue to add innovative magnet programs, more parental involvement and continue to recruit top teachers and staff.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

A continuation of improved salaries and benefits. Career sdvancement tracks for career educators. Supplemental housing for first year teachers.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

Yes

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes, more accountability required of parents whose children are suspended twice in one month. This would consist of mandatory volunteerism and parental counseling relating to effective for periods to be determined basis.

Ruby M. Jones

Age: 69.

Education: Doctor of Education [Ed.D.]

Ruby Jones
Ruby Jones

Professional experience: teacher, instructional Specialist, School Administrator, NC State Reviewer for Low Performing Schools, Education Professor

Previous public offices held:

Family: 2 married daughters and 4 grand children

Website: facebook: Dr. RubyM.Jones Twitter: RubyMJonesEdc

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: District 3

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: began career as CMS teacher, instructional specialist and assistant principal

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Engaging low performing students in meaningful/engaging learning experiences that show them connectedness to their future

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Continue to advance learning via students’ multiple intelligences - magnet choices, theme-based learning, expeditionary learning

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Providing more comprehensive instructional models, enriching its CTE options, better marketing of the superior array of programs that CMS already offers

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Ask potential employees what they want; incentivizing down payment on housing if necessary, a teacher discount card across the board including that includes utility deposits

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

CMS is making strides in a positive direction; however, towns and city leaders need to meet and organize a unified task force to address common goals

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

There is reduction in suspensions of Pre-K - 2 in the 2016-17 SY. There remains a disproportionality in black youth suspensions that can ONLY be rectified through parent partnership and broader black community support for cradle to school age parent education

Blanche Penn

Age: 66.

Education: I have two associate degrees one in Business Administration the other in Human Services from Central Piedmont Community College. My commitment to the arts led me to attain a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts from UNC Charlotte in 2013. I hold a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University. I am presently pursuing my Ph.D. in Education Leadership.

Blanche Penn
Blanche Penn

Professional experience: I retired in 2016 from Mecklenburg Park and Recreation after almost thirty years of service as a Recreation Specialist. I was also a Facility Manager at West Charlotte Recreation Center. The Black History African-American cultural exhibition originated for the sole purpose of teaching student’s black history. I also had a winning successful senior citizen cheerleading squad and many other programs for our youth and seniors.

I became involved in special education issues when I discovered that one of my children was not receiving appropriate services. As a result, I became a leader with the Exceptional Children Assistance Center. I have empowered participants at seminars, workshops, and general meetings on the rights of the developmentally disabled. Through these efforts, Governor Jim Hunt appointed me to the North Carolina Developmental Disability Council Board.

Previous public offices held: N/A

Family: I was married for 37 years and have four children and ten grandchildren all of who has attended or is currently attending CMS.

Website: www.voteforpenn.org

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: District 3, University/Northeast, west, south, and north neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I served as a leader in decreasing truancy with CMS students. The goal was to assist with the deterrence of unnecessary suspensions, and to assist with the achievement of students dreams of college education and career readiness.

I have assisted many parents and guardians with the tools needed for Parent-Teacher conferences and regularly attend CMS School Board meetings. I accompanied many families to school disciplinary hearings and advocated for students on behalf of suspensions or expulsions.

I have worked with several counselors on the Stay Focus program which I implemented at three of CMS schools. There were three projects in CMS which include, Martin Middle School, Vance High School, and Alexander Middle School. The purpose of the Stay Focus program is to assist with high risk and low performing students. I have served two terms as President of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Parent Teacher Student Association Council. Additionally, I served as the PTA President of both Vance and Rocky River High Schools. Furthermore, I sponsored the Million Father March, men taking children to school on the first day. I also worked with Brun’s Middle School Community in Schools. I served with the Exceptional Children Assistance Center and implemented a project called APPLE in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System. As aforementioned, through these efforts, Governor Jim Hunt appointed me to the North Carolina Developmental Disability Council board. I also implemented a project called Parents on the Move. I have empowered participants at seminars, workshops, and general meetings on the rights of the developmentally disabled, CMS 101, and many workshops.

I continue to remain involved in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System. I established a non-profit called The Winners PLUS Agency S.T.A.R. (Students Together against Recklessness). The S.T.A.R. dramatic production encourages students across the region to resist behaviors such as substance use/abuse, violence, and unhealthy sexual activities.

I was one of the leaders of the Million Father March (Men Taking Children to School on the First Day), which was initiated in 2006 in partnership with the Chicago-based Black Star Project. Over 100 cities participated, with the programs using research to actively involve fathers in the lives of their children. This program is still going on today. My quote, “A child needs direction and if the direction is clear the child will succeed.” A quote from Linda Murray “there is nothing more urgent in America’s public schools than giving students from all backgrounds an education that prepares them for college and careers. We can only accomplish greatness among our students when we believe that all students deserve a quality education.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

One challenge facing the CMS board in the next four years is the student assignment plan scheduled for rollout in 2018. The implementation of this plan will impact all students. The decision passed by the Board of Education resulted in many unhappy parents and students. The board will need to think about how these decisions will impact the schools, parents, and students. In the end, the goal is that all students have a quality education.

Another challenge that the board faces is the astronomical numbers of children suspended in CMS. Statistics have shown that children being suspended from pre-K- 2 and Black men being at the top of the list. According to the Charlotte Observer (July 20, 2016), CMS suspended nearly 1000 students on last year grades pre-K — 2nd. Statistics have shown that Black students are suspended almost nine times at the rate of white students. According to the Charlotte Observer (July 20, 2016), CMS 2015-16 data shows a total of 23,648 short term suspensions. Of that number, Black students make up approximately 80% while White students make up only 7% of the suspensions. I believe that CMS needs an action plan to resolve these ongoing concerns. One suggested solution would be to work with parent involvement in all the low performing schools. Various research shows that when parents are involved their students perform better academically.

College readiness is one last challenge that the board faces. As a parent, I explored several different colleges for my children. The values and limitations of the definitions of college readiness are that not every student will be ready for college. Students may excel in high school but it does not mean that they are ready for college. According to Conley (2007), “because college is genuinely different from high school, college readiness is fundamentally different than high school competence.” I believe if students are struggling with college readiness stems from low tests scores and end of grade assessment data. College readiness is much more complex and multidimensional than eligibility. Students become eligible for college by completing high school courses that have prescribed titles, taking necessary admissions tests, and submitting an application and financial aid materials. Today, much attention is focused on students going to college and not vocational training for students who are not ready for college. However, what we really need is a better way to evaluate our students. If elected I plan to explore solutions that will assist our students with college readiness. Establishing focus groups is at the top of my list.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

What the board should do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools is giving them a high performing effective teacher, leadership opportunities for teachers, tutoring for students and teachers, extended school day, data-driven instruction, caring teachers, and improve the allocation of vital resources for all schools. The establishment of a PTA or PTO organization to increase parent involvement are all crucial for increasing performance. According to (American Progress) for other districts with low-performing schools, the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA present an opportunity to implement similar comprehensive, evidence-based school improvement strategies. ESSA is the nation’s major law governing the K-12 public education system, replacing the outdated No Child Left behind Act, or NCLB. Under the new law, states and districts are required to provide comprehensive support and improvement to the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, high schools that fail to graduate one-third or more of their students, and schools in which subgroups perform at the same level as students in the lowest-performing schools despite local interventions.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

The only way that CMS will remain competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options is to ensure that these schools have qualified, certified teachers. Second, improve the allocation of vital resources. Third, give families more options with magnet schools. Fourth, provide rigorous classes for all students. Finally, CMS will need to continue providing transportation, opportunities for sports, clubs, community service groups and other after-school programs.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

To attract, retain and support high-performing faculty at any school, CMS should make sure that all schools have a well-written school improvement plan for parents, students, and their teachers. Ensure that teachers are provided with resources and effective training is very necessary to retain great teachers. Other incentives include monetary awards, loan forgiveness, housing incentives, and bonuses for national board-certified teachers.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

According to The Charlotte Observer ( April 26, 2016), the board has approved guiding principles that call for preserving the mix of neighborhood-based assignments and magnet options that CMS now has while using socioeconomic status to shape magnet admissions and boundaries. I do support a mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment. I believe that parents should be afforded the opportunity to select a school that they believe will provide a better-quality education for their child. The vision of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is to provide all students the best education available anywhere, preparing every child to lead a rich and productive life. The mission is to maximize academic achievement by every student in every school.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

One rule does not fit all. Therefore, I believe that CMS should reconsider their student discipline policies and practices. The policies are very general and not well defined for all students. Each child is different and has different problems and it is important for CMS to take each child case by case. Many children might be homeless, a single parent working two jobs; some children come to school hungry, and many other personal concerns that might have happened that night that might have the children act out that day.

Olivia Scott

Age: 25.

Education: UNC-Charlotte B.A in English and Early Childhood Administration courses at Central Piedmont Community College

Olivia Scott
Olivia Scott Lenn Long Photo

Professional experience: Childcare Director at 5 Star Facility, 2017 Institute of Political Leadership Fellow, Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte Mentee, Small Business Owner, Participated in The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Citizen's Academy

Previous public offices held:

Family: Family is the center of my life. I was raised in Charlotte since I was two, the daughter of Lee and Linda Scott. My mother is a small business owner specializing in early child care. It’s from her and the dedication of my father to help me that I found my calling to serve children. I have two sisters, Victoria Lynch and Camilla Walker. Victoria is a small business owner in Virginia Beach with her husband Andrew, an executive with Norfolk Southern. Jeffrey Walker, my wonderful stepfather, is also a small business owner in Charlotte.

Website: oliviascottforschoolboard.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: First Ward

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I am CMS educated ( Tuckaseegee Elementary, Coulwood Middle, and Hopewell High)and I work at a early childcare center that serves CMS students.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Charlotte’s surge in population growth.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

We know why students are performing low at certain schools so now it is time to use creatives solutions to fix it.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

I am all for constructive competition. We need to make our public schools better than private and charter schools in the area!

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

We need to ensure our teachers are getting as much support as possible and that we make working in CMS an enjoyable experience that high performing faculty can be proud to be apart of.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I appreciate CMS for giving parents a choice of where to send their children but diversity inclusion should be apart of “all” CMS schools.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

It is time for CMS to adapt creative solutions to student discipline.

DISTRICT 4

Carol Sawyer

Age: 59.

Education: M.A. in Museum Studies - The George Washington University, 1985

M.S. in Anatomy - University of Pennsylvania, 1982

B.S. in Psychology - University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1979

Carol Sawyer
Carol Sawyer

Professional experience: I have worked in the nonprofit sector my entire career. In the early part of my career I developed exhibitions for science and technology centers. I first came to Charlotte to work for Discovery Place. Subsequently, as Director of Exhibits and Planning at the Museum of Life & Science in Durham I managed a multi-million dollar museum expansion. More recently I have been assisting nonprofit organizations with grant writing, website development, and strategic planning.

Previous public offices held: I was appointed to the CMS Equity Committee in 2008 and served until the Committee was disbanded by the Board of Education. I have not served in elected office.

Family: Married to Tom Hanchett, Community Historian, Staff Historian at the Levine Museum of the New South, 1999 — 2015.

Daughter, Lydia, 2010 graduate, East Mecklenburg High School. Lydia attended Irwin Avenue Open, Barringer Academic Center, and Randolph Middle. She graduated from UNC—Chapel Hill in 2014.

Website: https://www.sawyerforschools.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: We have lived in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood since 1999.

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I attended public schools in my youth and sent my daughter to public schools. When I returned to Charlotte in 1999, I became a CMS parent. I was also hired to program the Center of Exploration at Irwin Avenue Open. That year I helped students explore science principles through hands on activities. Since then, I have been a regular volunteer in CMS — bringing hands-on science activities into classrooms, reading with students, serving on the East Meck SLT, and organizing activities such as a 4-day Civil Rights Study Tour.

I follow the Board’s work closely, meeting regularly over the years with Board members to learn about upcoming issues and decisions. I regularly attend at CMS Board of Education and Policy Committee meetings. I have spoken to the Board on many occasions regarding equity and disparate educational opportunities across CMS.

I have also been a public education advocate as a member of the League of Women Voters Education Committee, and in the leadership of MecklenburgACTS.org, and OneMECK.org.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

CMS must break the predictive link between home zip code and academic achievement. To accomplish this, CMS needs the support and cooperation of government, business, and philanthropic communities. We must:

1. Increase state funding. Teacher salaries are not competitive enough to attract and retain high-quality teachers, especially at high-poverty schools.

2. Supply wrap-around services. Thousands of CMS families face housing instability, food instability, untreated mental health issues, and other challenges. Children in these circumstances carry the burden of trauma and instability to the classroom. We must as a community address the affordable housing shortage, the need for social workers and psychologists in schools, and work to create supportive communities for all children.

3. Build community support. CMS needs to effectively engage business, faith, and community groups to improve its ability to prepare children for college and career.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

While serving on the CMS Equity Committee I had access to data demonstrating the savage inequities in educational opportunities among schools. The primary tool CMS uses for equity is a weighted student staffing model. This formula counts each student living in poverty as “1.3 students” in determining teacher allotments to schools. Thus, a school with 100% low-income students would have 30% more teachers than if they were 100% affluent. That sounds good, but:

▪ The weighting system was determined not by actual needs, but by what the budget would cover the year it was instituted.

▪ While high-poverty schools now often have more basic-education teachers, they often lack the specialized courses that open doors of opportunity for students, such as foreign language, arts classes, and advanced math. I will work to remedy those shortcomings.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

CMS needs to focus its efforts on improving educational opportunities for students already enrolled in CMS. If CMS provides every school with a rich, multifaceted curriculum, and with a responsive staff that addresses issues raised by families, they will earn the reputation required to attract and retain CMS families.

While many tests are required by the state, CMS needs to shift its classroom focus from good test prep to good teaching. The CMS curriculum cannot continue to emphasize test preparation over critical thinking.

School-based and central staff must actively listen and respond in a timely manner to parental issues. Parents who feel staff have not heard their concerns about issues such as bullying, test stress or teacher conduct will quickly become a former CMS parents.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

CMS will continue to struggle to attract and retain high-performing teachers until teacher pay and working conditions improve. While the Board needs to continue to lobby the legislature to significantly increase teacher pay, CMS needs to improve the professional environment for teachers. Too often, teachers are treated as cogs in a machine rather than college-educated professionals. CMS needs to listen to and value the professional opinions of its teachers about what works and what doesn’t in the classroom. However, even teachers satisfied with their treatment within CMS leave the system for neighboring states and other professions because they cannot support their families on a teacher salary.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I support the Board’s Guiding Principles for Pupil Assignment. The k-2/3-5 school pairings created socioeconomic balance in schools close to students’ homes. I hope that as the pupil assignment plan changes in response to new schools opening, we can implement additional school pairings. We must continually evaluate how magnets, future school placements, and school boundaries support the goal of reducing the numbers of schools with high concentrations of children living in poverty.

The choice element of the pupil assignment plan carries with it many challenges. First, to take advantage of choice, EVERY family must understand that choices are available and have the tools and knowledge to access those choices. This is not the case now. Many families do not understand, or have access to the tools to exercise choice. If we are to pursue choice, CMS must commit the resources to make choice available to everyone. The other challenge of choice is the negative effects it can have on Title I home schools. As parents choice-out of high poverty schools, the falling enrollment decreases teacher allotments and educational opportunities for the students remaining in the school. CMS must find a way to ensure that ALL schools offer a full, rich curriculum that includes advanced classes and arts electives.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

CMS’s data on show stark racial disparities in disciplinary practices. This disparity is especially evident in discretionary suspensions. The first step in attacking this disparity is to identify the schools with the highest suspension rates and target those schools with intensive professional development that includes cultural competency training, implicit bias awareness, and alternative disciplinary measures.

We also need to focus attention on students who are suspended repeatedly. Are they receiving appropriate supportive services? Can the student be moved to a classroom that has a teacher better able to work with the student?

At a Board level, I would ask for quarterly suspension data disaggregated by school, classroom, race, gender, and infraction along with plans for how the schools intend to reduce suspensions in the following quarter.

I would support a k-2 moratorium on suspensions only if school and district leadership have a concrete plan to assist teachers with students who continually disrupt the learning, or jeopardize the safety of staff and other pupils. Our schools aren’t equipped to handle students with unrecognized trauma. We also need to acknowledge that CMS cannot provide mental health and other supportive services to students without parental consent.

One of the challenges in schools with high suspension rates is having enough social workers and counselors to help build trust with families who don’t trust the system — often justifiably.

Stephanie Sneed

Age: 42.

Education: J.D. Howard University

Stephanie Sneed
Stephanie Sneed

Professional experience: My work as attorney has afforded me the opportunity to work for all levels of government entities. As an attorney for child protective services, I was an advocate for children to ensure their health, safety and welfare. As an environmental planner for a council of government I was instrumental in coordinating city governments throughout a vast metropolitan region in the implemtation of coordinated environmental programs. While in recent years my role as an attorney includes ensuring compliance with discrimination laws and regulations.

Previous public offices held: None

Family: Married with a 9 year daughter at a CMS school and 4 year son

Website: Sneed4schoolboard.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: school district 4

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: First and foremost I am a CMS parent of a daughter attending a neighborhood school. I have volunteered my time and resources to her school. I additionally serve as a Girl Scout leader and Troop Cookie manager for girls ages 5-9, stemming from two different CMS schools.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

The top challenge of the school board is closing the achievement gap and ensuring there is equity in schools in order to ensure all students are college ready.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

The Board must address the achievement gaps among the districts in CMS. The Board must dedicate resources to address the academic deficiencies students may have in the classroom through means of tailored instructional programs and after school opportunities. Additionally, as a community we must address socioeconomic challenges children face that in turn impact them in the classroom. These can be achieved through programs and partnerships with community organizations, government service programs and the private sector. An investment in these resources now will pay dividends to the city in the future.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

The Board must commit to equitably implementing innovative instructional programs and offering varied programs and courses such as STEAM, the arts and trade based courses.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

The Board will have to 1) ensure salaries are competitive; 2) make sure teachers have the appropriate support they need including training and assistance of skilled administrators; 3) ensure classroom size is manageable; and 4) provide incentives. For example, I have received private sector commitment to sponsor housing for new teachers to the Charlotte area who commit to teach in an underperforming school. Once elected, I plan to implement this as a new Board initiative.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

The focus has become misplaced in that should be on bringing all of the schools in all neighborhoods to an acceptable level of performance.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

The Board needs to begin with implementation of a moratorium on K through 2nd grade out of school suspensions. It is clear that out of school suspensions have a detrimental impact on students, particularly at that age group and for those who are already at risk. Children become further disenfranchised with school structure when they have been subjected to out of school suspensions. Although, the Board has made some strides by requiring superintendent approval of suspensions of these grade levels; the board has not gone far enough. Additionally, there must be a requirement that all teachers receive training on bias and/or biases in discipline. Even though, the district has begun training some teachers, the Board must ensure that all teachers are required to take this training. Studies have shown when teachers receive this training the disparity between white and minority students as it pertains to the issuance of discipline reduces dramatically. The Board must additionally ensure teachers receive the appropriate training in diversionary discipline tactics, and ensure implementation of preventive disciplinary programs for “at risk” students.

Queen Thompson

Age: 71.

Education: J. H. Gunn High School; B.A. Johnson C. Smith University; M.S.Ed. Southern Illinois University; Univ. Delaware, Oklahoma and North Carolina

Previous public offices held: None

Queen Thompson
Queen Thompson

Professional experience: 50+ years of direct service experience in family and children services, as a Social Worker; Federal Compliance Officer; AFL-CIO Union Shop Stewart; Career and Technical Education Director; Hospital Social Worker Director; Clinical Social Worker; Dropout Intervention Counselor

Family: Entire family are all graduates of Charlotte -Mecklenburg Schools. Married 48 years to Melvin Thompson, USAF Retired. Two daughters both whom are graduates of Garinger High School and both with advanced professional degrees.

Website: www.votequeent

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Hickory Grove area

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: Worked in CMS as a successful dropout intervention counselor/coordinator and a special populations coordinator - (that assured equal access for all students to received federally mandated programs and services).

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

The top challenge for CMS board is to galvanize the community’s will to provide an equal and equitable education for all students. To prepare all of CMS to compete in a global economy. There those that believe that America is stronger with a permanent under-class and with only 10% to 20% carrying the weight of America on its back. The challenge is uniting the community together in behalf of all children and all of Charlotte and the surrounding area.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

1. We must have the collected will to make every school a quality school, where all children are valued. The CMS board must in practice commit to the fact that all children can learn and have something to contribute. What helped me, as a dropout intervention counselor is to allow at -risk students and their parents the opportunity to participate in school activities. At Independence, I had a clubhouse called the “DO DROP INN” - “PG13.” The students decorated, planned a dropout prevention bulletin boards at the front of the school each month; we had a Dropout Prevention float in the parade; parents and businesses furnished refreshments every Friday and tutors in the morning. The parents and the students became the solutions. The students were so proud of their parent’s involvement. Parent wrote me and said the years that we all worked together were their most enjoyable years with their children. Twenty nine years later, my students from time to time let me know how well they are doing.

2.) At Midwood I was able to introduce a program where students could do a project to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter for a grade. This came from a workshop I went to on critical thinking and alternative assessments. This allowed students with different learning styles to demonstrate their learning of a subject in addition to testing.

3.) At Midwood High School, I required every child have an advocate, someone who would stand for them. Some of the students were living on their own and had no parent advocate. Employers, friends, grandparents and other relatives agreed to the rules and agreed to stand as an advocate for all of my students. Employers, parents and the business community met and came up with projects to do for the student body and planned activities. Parents, advocates and businesses planned a school store, a school carnival and planned a three dimensional prom. I had a student government made up of at-risk students, who received a credit for leadership and an all male school newspaper staff. Alternative children wrote about topics that interested them, displayed their art, music and culture through our school newspaper. It was a student driven newspaper geared to free spirit thinkers. I could hardly get the newspaper laid out, for students begging me to allow them to carry the newspaper drafts home for their parents to see, that they had done something good, in which gave them great pride.

4.) In Delaware, I had the opportunity embrace the work of William Glasser - School Without Failure. There is nothing positive about failure. Failure begets failure. Midwood High School and a school on Graham Street in Charlotte, NC are all schools without failure. The student works at his or her own pace and masters the subject matter.

5.) Staff Development - where all teaching and support staff are trained to meet the needs of all children. Some children are unwanted because the staff may have no clue as to how to work with the student or meet their needs. The public looks to schools as being the experts as to how to educate children. There are staff and administrators who may not have or received the training, that other state professionals receive. All staff should have a workshop called “ Can You See What I See?” It is a workshop that demonstrates what is like to have a disability and/or impairment in the classroom setting. Every staff should be required to take a course in NC Public School Law.

3. Schools must teach behavioral and social skills. All parents, students and staff must understand the rules of governance. Discipline should be merited with an understanding of appropriate behavior and understanding of consequences. I believe that schools must model due process and fairness.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Public schools are too large. The individual gets lost. My recommendations on the previous question is applicable to this question. In addition, attention to the individuality of students should also taken into appreciation in the school board’s planning.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Staff development is an issue for the board to address, All staff members must feel successful and be recognized in some way for their work, and performance. There needs to be a safe place for staff to discuss their concerns and offer cost saving suggestions. To label teachers and/or their work place as failure and low performing is demoralizing. No one wants to work for very little money and wear the label as being a failure. It is time that teachers be treated like they are our most prized professionals.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I do not accept the current plan. The current neighborhood based plan leaves some children completely out from finding their interest and potential in elementary school. Every community must offer a quality schools of excellence. CMS sent me to look at the Tampa, Fla. school programs, years ago. Tampa put their most high tech desirable schools in the inter-city. Students learned how to fly airplanes in high school, how to build minute cars and race them, build bridges, design highways and make robots in school. There was a vocational technical high school that students dressed according to they choice careers, Students learned to make eyeglasses and dentures. There were careers in business, public safety, nursing, all phases of health care and military careers that students could learn in high school schools. If a student wanted to take aviation, no matter what side of town he lived on he could attend the school that offered his career interest.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

We must teach behavior and social skills to children, parents and staff. We need to all know common core behaviors and understand consequences along with restitution and due process rights. All of us do not know the same rules and codes of conduct. As a counselor, I have had children ask “what did I do wrong.” Children have been suspended and they nor their parents knew what they had done wrong. Suspensions without teaching behavior is not effective. It the child is suspended, for 10 days, missing 6 classes, then he has to make up 60 hours of classroom work. Children are have been punished for running and playing cowboys, the first time that they do so. They are never told what they did wrong. School discipline should be used to teach and model appropriate school behavior to the students and his or her caretakers. All discipline should be reviewed to ensure fairness and due process rights are observed.

DISTRICT 5

Margaret Marshall

Age: 55.

Education: Attended public schools in Davidson County, NC. Wake Forest University, BS in Accounting 1984

Margaret Marshall
Margaret Marshall

Professional experience: Retired CPA. Formerly served as Assistant Controller with Crosland Erwin Associates, Assistant Controller with The John Crosland Company, Staff Accountant, Ernst and Whinney

Previous public offices held: None

Family: Husband Harrison Marshall. Two daughters, Kate - graduate of Myers Park High School and Meredith College and Betsy - graduate of Myers Park High School and Davidson College.

Website: https://margaretmarshallforschoolboard.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Charlotte, Foxcroft neighborhood

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: My connection with CMS began before my daughters entered Sharon Elementary when I took my first PTA job. That involvement has continued over 20 years. My leadership positions in CMS are as follows:

▪ Myers Park High School PTA Co-President

▪ AG Middle School PTA Co-President

▪ Sharon Elementary School Treasurer

▪ School Leadership Team — Sharon Elementary, AG Middle, Myers Park High School

▪ Myers Park High School Foundation — Founding Board Member

▪ East Mecklenburg High School Foundation — Board Member

▪ HEART Math Tutor — Bruns Academy and Winterfield Elementary School I have advocated for funding for CMS budget requests and teacher salary increases through MeckFuture, Togehter4Meck, and Public School Friends. Other community educational organizations I have been involved with are:

▪ Howard Levine Early Childhood Development Center Task Force Leader — YMCA/Renaissance West Community Initiative

▪ YMCA Community Impact Committee — Early Learning Chair

▪ Circle de Luz — Social Venture Partners Co- Lead Partner

▪ SEED 20 - Logistics Manager

▪ Junior League of Charlotte — various educational placements

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

The top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming years will be to keep everyone “in the boat.” Parents in this community have many excellent school choices for their children. The CMS board needs to do all that it can to ensure that our public schools remain a viable choice for our families, including those who can afford other alternatives. A strong public school system is essential for ensuring a bright future for our city and our county. In order to maintain “market share,” CMS will need to maintain high performing programs while simultaneously continuing to make progress on closing the achievement gap and raising graduation rates. It is also important that the community appreciate the excellent programs that already exist in our public schools. Therefore, CMS will need to do a much better job in touting its successes in order to keep the community from gravitating to private or charter schools. A concerted effort to boost community resolve to maintain strong public schools needs to be pursued by CMS in partnership with city/county leadership and the business community.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force states that the highest aspiration we have as a community is to rally around a vision that we “care about all our children and youth - regardless of income, race, or zip code - and where all our children feel they belong, have big dreams, and find the opportunities to achieve those dreams.” CMS is the natural place for that vision to be found, but we all know that CMS cannot do the work alone. More favorable housing patterns, access to transportation, and of course parental support are essential to the success of students. At a time when politics seem to be pulling us apart, convincing the larger community that CMS is the right alternative for their child and, in fact, for most students, will take renewed resolve among all stakeholders to support public schools. We will all win if we are successful in keeping us all in the same boat.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Closing the achievement gap is the best thing that CMS can do to increase opportunities for our lowest-performing students and schools. The most cost effective and efficient way to do this is to invest in quality early education. Research has repeatedly shown that high quality pre-k can dramatically narrow the achievement gap at kindergarten for low-income students. When students enter kindergarten behind, they often fall further behind despite the best efforts of teachers to close the gap. Therefore, working with the County to fully fund the pre-k wait list is job #1. Expanding the existing pre-k program we have is low hanging fruit and needs to be quickly implemented.

We should also look at massively expanding programs that deal with summer learning loss. There is much focus on making sure that children are reading at grade level by age 8. Playing catch up after age 8 is more costly and less effective. Deploying resources to give young, low-performing students access to a six-week quality program in the summer focused on literacy has proven to be successful. We are not going to be able to prepare students for the 21st century jobs they need if they cannot read and write. Early intervention, both before kindergarten begins and remediation before age 8, will pay off for our community and result in more opportunities for our students to have access to higher paying jobs.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

The CMS Board needs to do several things in order to remain competitive with private and charter schools and continue to attract families with options.

The first is to communicate any decision affecting boundary changes with a clear timeline, agreed upon methodology, and adequate time for community feedback. Parents will chose to stay through a boundary change when there is more information, more certainty that proposed changes won’t negatively affect the quality of their child’s education, and more opportunity for parental voices to be heard.

The second thing that CMS needs to do is pay attention to both the quality of the programming offered and the consistency with which that programming is delivered across all of our schools. When the quality of our academic offerings are high, parents will vote with their feet. CMS is seeing increased enrollment in many of our high schools from students coming from private and charter schools. Top colleges across the country are interested in the students that graduate from our high schools. They tell our counseling staff that CMS students are prepared academically and, as a result of the diversity within many of our schools, they function well in diverse college and business environments.

CMS also needs to do a better job in communicating the variety of its educational options to parents so they can chose the type that best fits their child. With an additional 20,000 magnet seats coming to CMS in the next four years, parents have more choices than ever before. This communication will need to come in the form of media coverage, community engagement, and word of mouth from existing CMS parents to encourage parents to enroll their children in public school.

Clear communication of boundary change information, maintaining the quality of academic programming, and communication of options within CMS will give parents confidence that their child is receiving a great education in our public school system.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

The CMS board should continue to focus on compensation in the attraction and retention of high performing faculty. It is hard to be a high-performing teacher when you are forced to work several jobs during the school year to make ends meet. Pay increases for beginning and veteran teachers have been part of the budget cycle both on a state and county level for many years and should continue to be a priority going forward. However, increased pay will not be the only thing CMS can do to attract and retain teachers. Opportunities for career growth and meaningful professional development will help keep our best teachers in the classroom.

An example of a successful model of advanced roles for teachers is the Opportunity Culture program, a cooperative effort of the Belk Foundation and CMS. This program enables our best teachers to be in front of more students. Opportunity Culture lays out a career path for teachers who are known for their ability to instruct students so they can increase their compensation without having to leave the classroom. The program is successful in boosting satisfaction for teachers and increases in student performance are notable. Last year, CMS high poverty schools using the Opportunity Culture model were 30% more likely to exceed growth expectations than low poverty schools that didn’t use the model. Expanding this model throughout CMS is a win for both teachers and students.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I do support the mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignments. Parents should have a choice in the location, curriculum, and type of programming for their children and the current mix provides that choice. I hope to expand the mix even more as we develop some of the boutique schools that Dr. Wilcox has been associated with in the past, including schools that organize learning into career/tech areas and special interests.

That being said I will pay special attention to our neighborhood schools to make sure that everyone has a great neighborhood option. Our suburban neighborhood schools are in most cases filled to capacity with families who want to attend nearby schools while families in the western and eastern portions of the county often perceive their neighborhood schools as inadequate. We need to make sure these schools are staffed with dynamic principals, great teachers (see my comments on Opportunity Culture), and adequate counseling staff, and that they offer programming that is more than remedial in focus. A major challenge for CMS is that housing in our community is segregated by income and race. The days of busing to achieve racial diversity are gone. However, a diverse student body contributes to effective learning and preparation for 21st century jobs. As a community we should make every effort to ensure that all our students attend schools where they can be academically successful, no matter their zip code

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Suspensions should be the option of last resort in the early grades but I am not in favor of a moratorium on suspending students in kindergarten through second grade. In discussions with seasoned elementary school principals, I have learned that the suspension of a young student may be necessary to protect the safety of other students or teachers and also may be necessary to get the attention of parents who would not otherwise appreciate the seriousness of their child’s behavior. I believe that these experienced principals deserve our support, and I don’t want to remove any tool from a principal’s toolbox. If the behavior of a young child is so significant that suspension is implemented, then that suspension should be accompanied by meaningful mental health and behavioral counseling. Many principals in the district have been able to drastically reduce the number of suspensions by training staff on behavior modification techniques and implicit bias. Expanding this training should be a priority.

CMS and the community should also place a higher priority on the social and emotional well being of our students. Academic progress is always compromised when students are unable to handle feelings of fear, anxiety, or anger. In 2010 CMS drastically reduced the number of counselors and social workers in our schools. We have not brought back those numbers to pre-recession levels. Having adequate counseling staffs at our schools would benefit struggling students and give teachers more opportunities to teach instead of managing classroom behavior issues. In addition, the expansion of pre-k to include more students will help our younger children learn to modulate their behavior before kindergarten begins. Kindergarten readiness reduces frustration in our younger students and thus reduces the need for suspensions. Giving our students more access to professionals and programs that can help them with social and emotional issues will increase academic performance and lower the need for suspensions at all grade levels.

Jim Peterson

Age: 45.

Education: Executive MBA from Queens University of Charlotte

Jim Peterson
Jim Peterson

Professional experience: Process Improvement and Operational Risk management

Previous public offices held:

Family: I have been married to my wonderful wife Michelle Peterson for over 20 years. We have three daughters: Emma (15), Abby (10), and Kate (3).

Website: www.ElectJimPeterson.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Barclay Downs

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I grew up in the CMS system and my children are also currently in CMS. I teach on occasion via the Junior Achievement volunteer program. I volunteer reading to elementary school students, I have spent time packing school bags, and even have built a playground for our local A Better World non profit organization in Ashley Park. My connections are personal which is why my commitment is to Every Kid in Every School.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

This is two fold. First, I believe the CMS board has a broken relationship with county and state leaders over budgets and oversight. I have colleagues on both sides of the isle and at both the levels of the government who trust me. I have the unique ability to repair those personal relationships and bring back that trust in the School Board. The Second and bigger challenge I am going to fix in my 4 year term is the issue of our lowest performing schools and our children who are slipping through the cracks at these schools. None of our children should be attending schools that have performance ratings of 1s, 2s, or 3s, out of a possible 10.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

We first need to address the issues of classroom size and the student to teacher ratios. Tell me, how in the world can a school teacher effectively teach large classes of 30 and sometimes 40+ students? Two of my top 3 goals are specifically geared to fixing this issue in my first term serving your families. I will get more teachers in these classrooms and for the children that are struggling, I will make sure they have the personal in school tutoring that is currently only seen or offered through expensive external companies. We have two gaps here. Students that need personal help and teachers that oftentimes have to look for external jobs to help offset low pay. My plan is going to bring these two together for a solution that finally makes a difference.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

This is an easy one. We MUST increase the performance of our schools. People are fleeing the current CMS system because it is simply not providing their kids with the high education they deserve. CMS’s overall performance is a 6 out of 10 with the highest concentration of failing schools at the elementary school level. This is why thousands of our kids are falling through the cracks of Math and Reading at such a young age. Studies have shown that if a child is not up to grade reading level by the 4th grade they will mostly struggle the rest of their lives. Sitting around and continuing to do nothing on the CMS Board is not an option. I will have every one of our schools up to a competitive level by the time my 4 year term is over.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Simple, pay them what a high performing team member deserves. If we want the best teachers, principles, and faculty to rebuild our low performing schools, lets provide the incentive. The CMS budget can support this. My professional skills are specifically in identifying and then creating process improvements. I am a details person. Your vote for me will ensure we not only retain our highest performing teachers/staff, but it will also pull those teachers, principles, and staff back to CMS who previously left for better opportunities.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I believe there is still a lot to be fixed. I believe neighborhood based schools work best when the neighborhood and students can actually be proud of their school. CMS currently has 75 schools that are more than 40 years old. 11 high schools were built before 1970. Those of us who currently have children in the CMS system have seen and know that most of the schools have multiple state health inspection violations. This is yet another item on my top 5 list that I will fix when you put me on the Board to work for your family.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

One of the big debates right now for CMS is the expulsion of children in the Pre-K through 2nd grade. When asked if I support stopping those expulsions my answer is Yes! Pre-K through 2nd grade children are simply too young for expulsions. My focus is on what the child is going through, what struggles are in his or her world? Children, especially young children want to get along with each other and make friends. When they act out, it is usually a result or reaction to some pain they are experiencing in their lives. Our job and responsibility is to help them and every kid receive a good education. Removing a child who is only 5, 6, or 7 from his or her school makes them feel like an even bigger failure when they are already struggling. My fight is to help these children who are falling through the cracks in our system. My commitment is to Every Kid in Every School. Every child is a gift from God and I promise to treat them as the wonderful gift they are in our school system. My ask of you is simply to help when casting your vote this November. Please remember me, Jim Peterson as I remember my promise to you. God bless, and thank you! Jim.

Jeremy Stephenson

Age: 44.

Education: UVA (BA 1991), Loyola Univ. Chicago (JD 1999)

Jeremy Stephenson
Jeremy Stephenson

Professional experience: 18 years labor and employment (human resources) attorney, Equity Shareholder, McNair Law Firm, P.A. Please see full professional bio at www.mcnair.net; 8 years, pro bono volunteer attorney, Council for Children's Rights; 2014-present, Government Affairs Director, NC Society for Human Resource Management, 2012 President, Charlotte Area Society for Human Resource Management; 2016-present, Chairman, Mecklenburg County Human Resources Advisory Committee (appointed by unanimous vote of BOCC).

Previous public offices held:

Family: Wife (Katherine), Daughter (Hazel, 6 1/2). From proud family of teachers Mother (high school and community college), Father (college professor, labor economics, and Brookings Fellow), sister (kindergarden), grandmother (elementary).

Website: http://stephensonforschoolboard.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Southeast Charlotte

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I am a product of large and diverse public schools. My volunteer work with CFCR for many years brought me into CMS schools all across our county, often in the most dire circumstances. When my daughter was born in 2010, I asked my School Board about student assignment, how a “guarantee of neighborhood schools” could assign my neighborhood, less than one mile from Providence HS, to East Meck, over eight miles away. I organized my neighbors, and met the bureaucratic wall head on. In 2015, two School Board members and a county commissioner asked me to run At Large, and I did, and seeing all parts of CMS, from Cornelius to Matthews and East and West sides in between. My Human Resources work also brought me to Olympic HS and Alignment SouthWest Charlotte, lightning in bottle, and I’ve been going back for years, asking why these same best practices are not replicated county-wide; they call me there “The Olympic Evangelist", I’ll take it. As Government Affairs Director for NCSHRM, I include public education as a Legislative Priority at the NCGA, as well as inviting BEST-NC and NC House Education Chair Rep. Craig Horn to participate in state-wide NCSHRM Gov’t Affairs Webinars.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Two: Restoring local credibility including keeping Clayton Wilcox for four years; and, schools with high concentrations of race and poverty significantly underperforming academically. If we cannot keep Dr. Wilcox, it will very be difficult to make sustained progress on #2. Conversely, it is only #2 because I see it dependent upon #1.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Better cooperation with outside agents for experiential learning and college/career readiness; social opportunities. Most things with biggest impact likely to come from outside of CMS, and CMS Board must cooperate and facilitate those efforts, invite them not hinder them. Olympic and AlignmentSWCharlotte showed the playbook, going from “Academic Genocide” in Judge Manning’s 2005 opinion to a school of national and international renown, from 40% graduation rate to over 80%. Such same tactics must be replicated throughout the system. CTE must lead our community’s Upward Mobility conversation. Embrace READ Charlotte. Reach out to professional groups like the Mecklenburg County Bar Association.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

Provide excellent home school choice and diverse (subject and geographically) magnets; already doing both in most cases. Not treat Charters and Charter Parents as existential enemies and instead cooperate as mission sharing partners. Robust Ombudsman and parent engagement; when parents hit bureaucratic stone wall they are more likely to pull out and disengage - ever ask a principal why drinking fountain by playground not working on a hot day ("go ask facilities")? or 5th grade class having 4 teachers in 1 year (MPTraditional)? Or a Harding HS student not having a math teacher for a whole year? I have! and those kinds of legitimate parent complaints (without answers) send families packing.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

This is squarely a human resources issue and I have unique qualifications to address it. Professionally I work with clients who cannot pay top pay salaries who must instead treat employees as valued investments and the future of the organization. CMS, on paper a Fortune 1,000 company with 19,000 employees and $1.4 billion budget, until recently had a Chief HR Officer who was just prior a middle school principal; inexcusable! Dr. Wilcox is thankfully revamping the HR Dept. Education policy changes, including Principal Pay, out of the NCGA, could also be important, and my relationships there help too; teachers need to know they have an effective advocate on the Board. LIFT Opportunity Culture is also exciting and could possibly be scaled beyond.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

I am a strong supporter of neighborhood schools, including sustainability in walking and biking to school. I want further geographic proliferation of small footprint magnets, as there are few magnets in Dist 5, and I understand Dr. Wilcox supports this too. Overcapacity issues are going to become more frequent, and building unlikely to keep up, necessitating further changes, but without abandoning the neighborhood school model. Parent surveys from across the County favor strong neighborhood schools; I will seek out parent input like few before me.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

CMS just changed its suspension policy this Summer and should not discuss further changes until seeing these new changes in practice. I do not support an absolute moratorium on out of school suspensions. CMS desperately needs MANY more social workers and therapists and I would gladly give up some Sr. Management salaries to pay for them.

DISTRICT 6

Allen Smith

Age: 34.

Education: BS – University of Texas at Austin, Radio-Television-Film

MFA – Boston University, Screenwriting

German and European Studies – University of Würzburg

Allen Smith
Allen Smith

Professional experience: 2015-Present — GitHub, Inc. — Trainer/Technical Multimedia Producer

2012-2015 — YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee — Applications Administrator

2011-2012 — Metro Nashville Police Department – Crime Lab Information Systems Advisor

2010-2011 — Quality Systems, Inc. — IT Director

2008-2009 — Boston University — Graduate Assistant

2007-2009 — Duke TIP — Instructor

2001-2015 — Freelance Web Developer and Motion Picture Professional

Previous public offices held: None

Family: Wife – Becky

Daughter – Mabel (3 years)

Daughter – Franny (5 months)

Website: http://allenforschoolboard.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Raintree

Experience/connections with CMS and public education: I follow local education advocacy groups such as OneMECK, MeckEd, and Leading on Opportunity. I also co-created the South Charlotte Neighbors group, which was formed to raise awareness about the plans to construct a for-profit sports complex on the property of Jay M. Robinson Middle School. Since the property’s rezoning was put on hold, however, that group’s focus has since become more generalized.

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

There are so many challenges facing our schools, but perhaps the most impactful way to address many of them is for the board to work on improving collaboration and transparency. That type of foundational work has a ripple effect that not only helps strengthen the public’s trust. It also uncovers better long-term solutions by working from common ground and removes calcifications that prevent us from addressing issues like inequity, overcrowding, and cultivating top talent.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

I’ve proposed a two-phased approach that includes short-term and long-term thinking. In the short term, we should keep expanding our magnet programs in an equitable way to reach more students, keeping in mind that it may take extra effort to make sure the students who are most in need can learn about, apply to, and attend those magnet programs. We also need to make sure we’re giving students and staff at low performing schools the things they need to be successful. In the long term, we need to modernize the way we think about student assignment. I have proposed controlled choice as a long-term goal for student assignment because it increases flexibility and decouples student assignment from the volatility of the real estate industry.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

In addition to expanding magnet programs, shifting to an equitable, choice-based assignment model would give families more options for their kids. It’s also important that the board work with the state to ensure all charter schools are fulfilling the purpose the state legislature originally intended for them and not just siphoning resources from the district.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

I think most folks agree — myself included — we need to be paying teachers more. Cultivating top talent is about more than just money though. I believe the board should show teachers that the district values the things that are important to them. We should find ways to bring affordable housing to our teachers so they’re not burdened with hefty commutes that drain their energy. We should make sure there are fulfilling career pathways for great teachers who don’t want to be administrators. Perhaps most importantly, we should focus on making sure all of our teachers get to do the amazing work they’re all capable of when they get to actually teach.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

No. I know we can do better for all students, but I also believe in incremental change. That’s why I have recommended a two-phased approach that includes an equitable magnet expansion and a gradual shift to a controlled-choice model for student assignment.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

Yes. I appreciate the board acknowledging the issues with the current discipline practices, such as the race gap for suspensions and the long-term effects of suspending young students — especially students of color. As a broader goal, I believe the board should revise policies to put more emphasis on positive alternatives that prioritize keeping students in school and engaged. These approaches should take into consideration a child’s background and other factors that may be contributing to their misconduct. Possible alternatives might include counseling, skill-building, community service activities, or individualized in-school suspension programming. It’s also important to provide adequate funding for these approaches and to have measures in place to ensure discipline isn’t being applied disproportionately to students of color or students with special needs.

Sean Strain

Age: 45.

Education: BS, Computer Engineering

Sean Strain 4 School Board.2017.a
Sean Strain

Professional experience: 26 years Sales & Delivery, Digital Transformation, in a number of companies and locations around the world.

Previous public offices held: None

Family: Wife, 4 children in CMS

Website: www.seanstrain.com

Neighborhood/municipality where you live: Providence Plantation

Experience/connections with CMS and public education:

- 8 years in CMS as engaged parent

- family working in CMS

- 2 years as SLT member, Crestdale Middle School

- Co-founder, Thomasboro Foundation

What do you consider the top challenge facing the CMS board in the coming four years?

Delivering on the mission to maximize academic achievement by every student in every school. This has been particularly challenging in our sprawling urban/suburban district. Better collaboration and engagement with other governmental and non-governmental entities, particularly but not limited to the BOCC, City/Town Councils, houses of faith and community organizations, in order to drive a culture of academic excellence and opportunity for our children.

What should the board do to increase opportunities for the lowest-performing students and schools?

Ensure excellent leadership, rigor, high expectations and educational environment in every school and every classroom. Work with families and caregivers, governmental and non-governmental partners to support and encourage the same off school grounds and outside of school hours.

What should the board do to ensure that CMS remains competitive with private and charter schools and continues to attract families with options?

CMS co-exists in a landscape of school choices, including charter schools, private schools and parochial schools. Families want and deserve options, and the board can place CMS at the top of the list for many by delivering on its mission in every school, adding innovative instructional options through new magnet programs, and adding seats in high demand magnet programs throughout the county.

Magnets should never be used as an escape from a “failing” school, but as an alternative or specialized academic environment for students who seek a non-traditional option. To be viable alternatives, magnet programs should be available, accessible, and of consistent quality, and CMS should work with families to identify the most appropriate learning environment for each student’s learning style, talents and interests.

What should the board do to attract, retain and support high-performing faculty?

Teachers and school staff must be treated as the professionals they are. The Board must tidy up HR policies that don’t encourage high performance by new and longtime educators, work with NCGA and BOCC to continue to raise pay, enable localized decision-making within schools wherever possible, and ensure a healthy and supportive work environment in each of our schools.

Do you support the current mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice in student assignment? If not, how would you change it?

Yes. I believe that every student deserves an excellent education in a school that is close to home. I will be closely watching the newly introduced school pairings to determine how well they deliver on the CMS mission for every child in each school.

Do you believe CMS needs to change its student discipline policies and practices? If so, how?

We have behavioral issues in a number of schools that impact the learning environment for all students. Some rise to the level of putting other students and educators at risk — mentally, physically, and psychologically.

Discipline policies must be clearly stated in the student handbooks, signed off by students and families, and students held to the letter of the policies, for their safety and benefit — and that of their peers and educators. Any educators or administrators that are found to abuse their position of authority must also be held to account.

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