As a push for more diversity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools gathers steam, first-time school board candidate Jeremy Stephenson is staking his campaign on resistance.
Those who want to revise student assignment have been vocal, but Stephenson says he believes far more people will be dismayed if their schools are disrupted for demographic balance. He says that includes not just families in successful suburban schools but those whose kids attend struggling urban schools such as Bruns Academy.
“Trying to use student assignment to solve a lack of achievement is a blunt tool,” Stephenson said. “I don’t hear Bruns parents leading the charge on diversity at all. They want an excellent home school.”
Stephenson, a lawyer, began his involvement with CMS about two years ago, when he led a push to get his southeast Charlotte neighborhood moved from the East Mecklenburg High zone to Providence’s. He failed but learned a lot about student assignment, he said.
His only child starts kindergarten next year, but he doesn’t promise she’ll be in CMS. Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a charter school for gifted students, currently offers the nearest and best-suited program, he says.
Stephenson was unaffiliated until January, when he was advised that he’d fare better as a school board candidate if he picked a party. He said he likes the GOP emphasis on personal responsibility, and he notes that being the only Republican among nine candidates gives him an edge.
Stephenson has picked up a string of endorsements from local and state officials, including the three Republicans on the CMS board. He says those connections will serve him well if he’s elected; Republicans control the state legislature, which in turn holds sway over public education.
▪ Political experience: First run for office.
▪ CMS connections: Represented his neighborhood in a push for a boundary change; volunteer test proctor.
▪ Occupation: Attorney.
▪ Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Virginia; law degree from Loyola University.
▪ Quote: “I tend to be a contrarian who really likes challenging assumptions and sometimes flipping them on their head.”
▪ Age: 42.