CMS District 1 Board Of Education Candidates Share Their Views

Oct 26, 2017

The election for Charlotte Mecklenburg's school board will take place on Nov. 7.  There are six seats up for grabs in the district with incumbents seeking re-election in three of them. WFAE sent a list of questions to all of the school board candidates about their backgrounds and thoughts on a few issues the district is facing, including student assignment and school bonds.

Here are their responses, some edited for brevity:

DISTRICT 1

Annette Albright

Occupation: Behavior modification technician, former substitute teacher

Annette Albright
Credit submitted

  

Have you ever held or run for an elected office?

No.

What will be a top priority for you if elected?

Repairing the damaged relationship between the Board of Education and the public it serves by increasing community engagement, awareness, and transparency into key decisions made by the board that broadly affect the community.

 

What is your position on the bond issue and why?

I support the bond package. As a CMS employee who has worked in some of the schools with the direst of needs, I fully understand that we cannot continue to educate students in the 20th fastest growing city in the country if we do not invest in capital improvement projects.

 

What is your position on the student assignment plan?

The plan is the district’s way of admitting they do not know how to fix failing schools. Schools need to be assessed on an individual basis and resources provided to address the needs of the particular school. Transportation resources will be stretched further with the task of pushing students away from neighborhood schools.

 

What do you think needs to happen to make CMS schools more racially and economically diverse and improve low-performing schools?

In order to improve low-performing schools the administrators have to increase parent engagement, attract highly-qualified staff by creating safe and supportive learning environments, and lastly utilize credible and reliable data to measure and track progress. If schools are successful and high-performing, the neighborhoods will attract diverse families.

Rhonda Lennon

Occupation: RN, Workers Comp Case Manager

Have you ever held or run for an elected office?

Yes, CMS School Board member since 2009 for District 1

 

Rhonda Lennon
Credit submitted

  

What will be a top priority for you if elected?

Finding common ground to work constructively with the new superintendent and new board members; expand our career pathways and apprenticeship programs in high schools, and Early Look programs at the middle school level; improving college and career readiness for graduates; support programs and initiatives to make every school a safe and rich academic experience; continue to work with the NC General Assembly on key legislative issues--teacher pay, K-12 class size, per pupil spending models and overall funding.

 

What is your position on the bond issue and why?

While I understand that our capital needs are vast, I do not support this bond package.  I cast the only 'no' vote on the school board. The capital needs assessment rubric that was used is flawed in the way it calculates building utilization as a ratio of teacher/classrooms, not the overall number of students. This flaw led to incorrect ranking of projects that was further invalidated by the addition of 3 projects from lower down the list; West Charlotte, Bruns Academy and Lansdowne. I support defeating the bond package and then working with the Board of County Commissioners on alternative funding for the most critical projects while a blue ribbon panel is assembled to determine a more accurate ranking of projects.

 

What is your position on the student assignment plan?

I have been and will continue to be a vocal supporter of a neighborhood based 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.

 

What do you think needs to happen to make CMS schools more racially and economically diverse and improve low-performing schools?

We must continue to build community partnerships with successful organizations like Big Brother/Big Sisters, Goodwill CLAY, YMCA, North Star Literacy Initiative and others so that every student is reached. In addition, we must implement comprehensive early childhood education, stronger services to assist with the social, medical and mental health needs of students and effective programs and leaders in every school

 

Jess Miller

Occupation: Owner/operator of an education consulting business; former teacher

 

Jess Miller
Credit submitted

  

Have you ever held or run for an elected office?

No.

 

What will be a top priority for you if elected?

Equity is the issue we face in CMS, and this affects the teaching and learning in classrooms in our district, including teacher quality, facilities, discipline disparities, and educational materials. One tool I would like to see the district use is an equity survey and framework developed by Fisher and Frey, two nationally-acclaimed educators, that allows for student and family feedback. This will help us identify gaps and places where we are not meeting students’ need, which is what equity is all about.     

 

What is your position on the bond issue and why?

I do not feel that this is the right package for our community right now. In addition to not addressing the needs spurred by the growth of our northern communities, the process includes too much subjectivity, faulty metrics (we don’t use the number of students in a building to determine if it is overcrowded), and politics. If we are going to spend nearly $1 billion, we should ensure the vision is clear and the spending is aligned.   

 

What is your position on the student assignment plan?

I fully support a mix of neighborhood-based assignments and choice options.  The real issue here is that our school boundaries have historically exacerbated patterns of residential segregation. We have to own the fact that as a community we have allowed our schools to re-segregate, we have allowed for gerrymandered boundaries to exist and in order for our community to move forward, we have to be ready for difficult conversations.  One of the most disappointing things for me about Phase 2 of the student assignment plan 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. 

 

What do you think needs to happen to make CMS schools more racially and economically diverse and improve low-performing schools?

Improving low-performing schools starts with…grounding our conversation and work in data that is presented to the community with transparency and reliability. Without that, our efforts will lack the vision and focus necessary to make the impact that our students so urgently need and deserve. 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. 

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