The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education faces two consequential tasks in the near future, in addition to all the usual important policy decisions it makes.
The board must decide on a superintendent, be it current leader Ann Clark or another from a national search.
The board also will reexamine the district’s student assignment policy, with an eye toward encouraging more diversity in Charlotte’s struggling and segregated schools.
Both tasks will be controversial. They already are. So as voters consider the nine women and men running for three at-large seats on the school board, they should look for at least three qualities:
Candidates should be well-versed in education policy and initiatives, so that they can bring ideas and flexibility to the table. They should be thoughtful and collegial, so they can steer debates away from the acrimony that will inevitably bubble up in the community. They should be transparent, because the public has trust issues with the board after members were dishonest and secretive about the departure of superintendent Heath Morrison.
Fortunately for Mecklenburg County, several candidates qualify. Three stand out. We recommend Janeen Bryant, Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Elyse Dashew.
Bryant is a name that will be unfamiliar to many voters, but she stood out to the editorial board for a breadth of knowledge of education issues here at home, as well as concepts being discussed nationwide. She’s taught in the classroom and boasts a long list of volunteer and advocacy activity, including work in the education sector. She’s currently a regional director for the non-profit Leadership for Educational Equity.
Bryant has a child in CMS schools and has volunteered in several. She’d bring a valuable perspective to both the superintendent search and the student assignment decision. We strongly recommend her.
Dashew, who finished a close fourth in the 2011 at-large school board race, deserves another look. She’s built credibility in the education community both as a co-founder of MeckFUTURE, which advocated for more state and local money for CMS, and in general as a smart and reasonable voice on school issues.
Dashew continues to advocate for money to relieve overcrowding in CMS schools. She says she also places great value on diversity – her child attends high-poverty McClintock Middle – but she wants to pursue paths that don’t include a return to mandatory busing. We believe she’ll bring strong ideas to that discussion and others.
Ellis-Stewart has long been among the county’s sharpest minds on education, first as a CMS parent and most recently as a board member. She brings to the board vast knowledge about education policy and issues, as well as an eye toward efficiency in budgets and a strong advocacy for at-risk children. Like Dashew, she values diversity but wants to pursue options other than busing.
Ellis-Stewart, however, was among those who voted for a confidentiality agreement that kept the details surrounding Heath Morrison’s departure from the public. That was a significant mistake, and she says now the board could have communicated more precisely what happened with Morrison. We believe that blemish is outweighed by all she brings to the board.