Growth, change, excellence in education and especially choice have been characteristics of education in the north Mecklenburg area for the past decade. I experienced and observed changes in local schools every decade since 1950. I grew up in the area, attended school at Long Creek and North Mecklenburg High and worked at Alexander Graham Middle and North Mecklenburg High.

There was a dual black-white public school system in the county until 1971 and a dual city county school system.

With the opening of North Mecklenburg High School in 1951, white student grades 10 to 12 from a large area extending to the Charlotte city limits were assigned to North Mecklenburg. In 1960 Alexander Junior High school opened, with some voluntary integration later in the decade.

The 1971 Supreme Court decision mandating busing for integration for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System changed every school in CMS. All schools had to have a certain percentage (within a range) of black and white students. Black students from the inner city were bused to North Mecklenburg High School. This continued until the decisions was challenged and reversed about 30 years later.  Kindergartens for all schools in the state began in the ’70s.

The ’80s were a period of slow growth. The real boom began in the 1990s and 2000s. Some parents wanted a more challenging academic curriculum for their children and sent them to private schools in Charlotte. The International Baccalaureate programs at North Meck and Davidson IB starting in 1994 met that need for most students. A variety of CMS magnet programs also gave some choice.

The boom in population growth began in the 1990s and continues today with growth around the lake. This overpopulated the existing schools, and new public schools were built. Four new high schools were built to help with overcrowding at North Mecklenburg: Vance, Hopewell, Mallard Creek and most recently Hough. North Meck at several times was the largest school in the state. Bradley and Bailey Road Middle Schools were built along with J.V. Washam, Torrence Creek, Barnette and Highland Creek elementary schools.

Another main characteristic of the last 10-plus years is choice.

Some older charter schools such as Lake Norman and Community School of Davidson have expanded their grade levels to include high school. The newer Pine Lake Preparatory is a K-12 school, one of the largest charter in the state. A new charter has been approved for Huntersville next year.

Parochial schools such as SouthLake Christian have grown in numbers. Smaller Christian schools such as Grace Covenant Academy and Lake Norman Christian (located in the former Davidson IB school) have gained popularity. St. Mark Catholic School is another option and a new Catholic high school will open soon near the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus county line.

Private schools continue to open and expand. Chesterbrook Academy and the Woodlawn School are options among others. Davidson Day will open a new campus in Mooresville.

The one constant among change and growth throughout the decades is excellence in educational opportunities for parents and students. With excellent principal leadership, high-quality teachers and parent and community support I believe this will continue into the future decades.

Jimmy Poole served as principal at his alma mater North Mecklenburg High from 1994 to 2005 and as interim principal at Davidson IB.