CMS gets new voting districts
by Staff Writer
by Tori Hamby
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted to redraw voting districts in a way that members say will create “more uniform” districts.
At the Tuesday, Sept. 27, board meeting, members Rhonda Lennon, Tim Morgan, Eric Davis, Tom Tate, and Trent Merchant voted for an option, which creates districts with “cleaner lines” that don’t jut out into other districts. Members such as Joe “Coach” White, Richard McElrath and Joyce Waddell opted to support a different option, which creates the least amount change between current and new districts. Kaye McGarry, who also voted for a second option, said districts that differ from the Board of Commissioners districts could confuse voters.
“One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from voters about this is the odd shapes of the districts,” said Lennon, who represents District 1, which includes Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius. “When you have several precincts sticking into other districts it just doesn’t make sense. It’s sorely needed.”
All options moved about 50,000 voters out of District 1, which previously contained 200,000 voters. Each district will now be comprised of approximately 150,000 to 121,000 residents.
Every 10 years, the Board of Education is required by law to even out political districts based on the county population data provided by the U.S. Census. Due to a large number of people moving to the north Mecklenburg area since the previous lines were drawn in 2001, District 1 grew substantially larger than other county districts. The new lines only effectswhich board member represents which precincts and not the schools that students attend.
Under the new lines, six of District 1’s most southern precincts will move into Districts 2 and 3, currently represented by McElrath and Waddell.
“Both (options) meet all the requirements that we set as a board,” Morgan said. “Option B has the most compact design and does a better job of keeping neighborhoods together.”
Superintendent search begins
The board also voted 8-1 to pay the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Urban Institute $18,400 to do an online survey to seek the public’s opinion about the qualities residents want to see in the next superintendent. Kaye McGarry offered the dissenting vote.
Lennon told the board that the online surveys will provide a way for every community member to have “an opportunity to have their voice heard,” while McGarry said she thought the move was “rushed” and raised the concern that the board could still engage the public in the selection process by using “in-house” resources.
Jim Huge, a consultant from PROACT Search – the firm the board tapped to lead the superintendent search earlier this month – kicked off the search by giving the board an expected timeline of the process. At its Sept. 13 meeting, the board voted to pay PROACT Search $56,500 to find a replacement for former Superintendent Peter Gorman, who left Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in June. However, the price tag does not include other methods the board may choose to increase public engagement, such as the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute online survey.
The board also plans to hold about six community meetings in upcoming months at different locations to hear the public’s opinions, concerns and ideas.
The board will use public input to create a profile of the ideal candidate. Members will use the profile for guidance when interviewing and ultimate choosing someone for the job.
“After all the community input, we will bring a profile back to you in January,” Huge said. “We will recruit candidates using that profile to narrow down the first round of interviews.”
PROACT Search also will take into account the opinion and concerns of new board members elected in November, Huge said. He added that the firm has already received inquiries from potential applicants. Although he did not give an exact number, he said the number of inquiries received is about the number he expected, considering the district’s national visibility and recognition.
Huge described the selection process to the board, suggesting that members accept applications until Feb. 15. In late February, the board will interview eight to 12 of the strongest applicants, choosing two to four final candidates to present to the public in early March.
He said he also hopes to attract non-traditional applicants outside of the education field by tapping into a network of industry leaders and retired military personnel. Huge also plans to use institutions such as Harvard University’s urban superintendents doctoral program and the Broad Superintendents Academy.