Voters pick collaboration over combat for school board

In the week before Tuesday’s election, versions of a similar email found their way to inboxes from Cotswold down to the southern Mecklenburg County line.

The emails were from parents concerned that their children wouldn’t be able to attend their neighborhood schools – and might be bused elsewhere. They noted that only one Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board candidate, Jeremy Stephenson, had been clear about keeping home schools a priority.

But Stephenson’s message also was laced with divisiveness, which led voters Tuesday to send an apparent message of their own: They want a Board of Education that can thoughtfully approach the delicate issue of student assignment.

Top vote-getters Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Elyse Dashew have already shown they are capable of discussing diversity without combativeness. They’ll be joined on the board by incumbent Mary McCray, a popular former teacher who had a rocky stint as school board chair during the departure of Superintendent Heath Morrison.

Stephenson missed the cut in fourth place.

Ellis-Stewart and Dashew have said they’d like CMS to pursue diversity without a policy of mandatory busing. That still leaves other approaches, including redrawing attendance zones, that are sure to be controversial. The board also will decide what to do about the next superintendent, be it interim Ann Clark or a new leader. That debate already has brought some heat.

Those tasks will call for board members who are flexible and collegial with each other – and transparent with the public. On Tuesday, voters got the discussion – and the next board – off to a promising start.