CMS gets new voting districts

School board mulls superintendent search

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 its Sept. 27 board meeting, members Rhonda Lennon, Tim Morgan, Eric Davis, Tom Tate, Trent Merchant voted for an option that gives districts “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 Commissioner’s 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 most of north Mecklenburg County. “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 effect which board member represents certain 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 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 an earlier 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 University of North Carolina at 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.
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.

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