Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two of three CMS board seats will change hands

Updated 6:15 Wednesday to correct some garbled paragraphs: So this is a strange twist. When De Shauna McLamb announced her candidacy in March, I checked in with the three incumbents about their plans. Kaye McGarry said she hadn't decided. Joe White had been very clear about not running again. And Trent Merchant said he probably should play coy, but yes, he planned to run again.

I was vague about that in yesterday's post because I'd been hearing folks say Trent was not running. I couldn't reach him before posting, but in an email sent last night, he says he basically blurted out a lie when I asked:

"I am not running for re-election this fall," Merchant wrote.

"I made my decision in November 2009. I informed Dr. Gorman in August 2010, Eric Davis in November 2010 - and have been telling others in recent weeks."

"In the early Spring of this year, at the end of a lengthy conversation on another topic, you asked me in passing if I was running and I blurted out a quick 'yes.' I wish that I had said something more cagey and politician-sounding, but that has never been my strong suit - and I was not ready to make my decision public until I had the chance to inform certain people privately."

"I will have served on the Board of Education for over 5 years at the end of my term, and it has been an honor to serve the people of Mecklenburg County. I thank them for the opportunity, and will be eternally grateful. My family, friends, and work colleagues have been incredibly supportive during the past 5 years; now it is time for me to devote more attention to them."

So now it's at least two of the three at-large members who will be new. McGarry sends this: "At this moment, I have not made a final decision. I am still reflecting on the accomplishments during my 2 terms (2003-present) serving all the children and families in Mecklenburg County, and am considering the upcoming challenges and how my experience and dedication might continue to serve public education should I decide to run for a third term."

With all the furor over school closings, teacher layoffs and a barrage of new testing, the prospect of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board election this fall has almost gotten lost.

Elyse Dashew, a parent leader at Smith Language Academy and a founder of MeckFUTURE, kicks off her campaign this week, and filing takes place the first two weeks of July. That means we should start getting a glimpse of what the race for three at-large seats will look like (the six district posts aren't up until 2013).

Elyse Dashew
During the last three years of budget cuts, Dashew has spent a lot of time trying to figure out what all the change will mean for her kids' school. From there she started looking at the bigger picture and getting to know families from various schools. MeckFUTURE, launched in March, mobilized folks from about 40 of CMS' 178 schools to lobby county officials for money to avert the massive layoffs projected for 2011-12.

Amidst all the turmoil, she says, there's a common thread: People really care about CMS. "There's so much energy around education," she said Tuesday. "A lot of times its expressed as frustration or anger or anxiety."

So far, Dashew's themes are pretty broad: She wants to get people constructively engaged and help the board work together. She's a first-time candidate and an unaffiliated voter, something she thinks would be a plus on a board that's ostensibly nonpartisan (the current makeup is four Democrats, three Republicans and two unaffiliated).

Dashew joins De Shauna McLamb, a CMS parent and NAACP member who announced her candidacy in March, and Hans Plotseneder, a West Meck teacher who has run twice before and plans to make a formal announcement of this year's candidacy soon. Tim Morgan, elected to represent south suburban District 6 two years ago, is mulling a bid for a countywide seat. At least one newcomer will take a seat, with Joe White stepping down at the end of this term.

It's a sign of the times that Dashew scheduled her formal announcement for Thursday but "soft-launched" via Facebook and Twitter last week. I returned from vacation and saw that a fan had tweeted her campaign web site.

Another sign of the times: We'll be relying more than ever on the web to get details of the school board campaign to the folks who care while making the best use of limited print space. During the 2009 campaign, I was frustrated at how little space we were able to dedicate to each of the 19 candidates. Since then we've launched this blog, which has opened faster and better ways to connect with the readers who care most about education. Keep me and Eric posted on what you're hearing and what you'd like to see to make informed choices.


Anonymous said...


I hope you will ask each candidate if they would vote to fund Dr. Gorman's proposed PFP plan and all the standardized tests that he has instituted. This is information that all voters need to make an informed decision. Ms. Dashew's website makes no mention of this critical issue.

Anonymous said...

They all will become brainwashed and corrupted by the BROAD. Follow the money!

Anonymous said...

Coach Joe is stepping down... Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! AMEN!

Wiley Coyote said...

MECKfuture supports pouring MILLIONS of dollars into the black hole known as Bright Beginnings.

ANY MECKfuture candidate who supports this farce of a program - the same program Gorman himself said didn't work, should NOT get any votes.

These people also want to raise our taxes to continue to support a system out of control.

Make sure you get the FACTS of where these candidates stand on the issues.

"I am going to face that increase," MeckFUTURE member Chris Bishop said. "And I’m okay, I’m okay with it. I’ve got a vested interest in this."

The "5 for 55" slogan refers to the five areas of the CMS budget that the group has pledged to try to preserve: teachers, weighted school staffing, school support staff, teaching assistants, and Bright Beginnings. CMS's budget plan indicates that these five areas will be the first to be funded if additional money comes in. Together, they'd cost approximately $55 million.

About 100 parents from at least 25 schools attended a MeckFUTURE rally at Metro School in Uptown. The group plans to ask its supporters to write letters to county commissioners in support of rate neutral tax policy, i.e. keeping the county's tax rate the same.

Don't let 100 parents with a school system that has 135,000 students hijack the narrative related to taxation and funding for CMS.

Anonymous said...

We need new blood. As a teacher in CMS I was appalled to find out that k-2 teachers have not taught content in the last 4 weeks due to their testing. Of course monitoring performance of both teachers and students is important, but we need to come up with one test that will allow us to do that. Before Gorman we used our EOG tests to pay for performance in the form of the STAR Bonus (measured class growth) and AYP Bonus (measured school growth). His system of testing, testing, testing is not effective. Students are burnt out with so many tests at the end of the year. We need to get some reasonable people on the board.

Anonymous said...

Everyone, vote against anyone who voted for pay for performance (Trent Merchant, Morgan, Davis) and we can kill it. It is a waste of millions for more crappy multiple choice tests. All we need is one more vote at meetings. Trent, I hope you enjoyed voting for it because we will enjoy voting against you. Eric and Tim, you too. It is the issue we care about.

CMS_Elem_Teacher said...

Elyse Dashew has been an amazing parent leader at Smith. The school board would be lucky to get her expertise and work ethic.

Anonymous said...

Funny how we are moving so strongly toward increased testing at the same time the Chinese are starting to realize that so much testing has stifled their creativity.

The Chinese are preparing to take the GaoKao which is a test that basically determines the entire course of their adult lives.

Everything from which college (if any) they can attend to their likelihood of even finding a decent job or potential mate are affected by that test.

And they are seriously questioning whether such a heavy reliance has resulted in people who are better suited for spitting up canned answers than coming up with new solutions.

I think there's a lesson in this for us as well as we head toward a system that even communists recognize as a failure.

Wiley Coyote said...

Among the 275 pink-slipped Stockton teachers is Elizabeth Old, who has taught English at her alma mater, Franklin High School, since 2007. She's worried about how her students, many of whom only read at an elementary-school level, will learn if class sizes keep growing.

The statement above is from an article I read about two weeks ago titled Schools struggle to recover amid years of cuts.

Here is the link:

Read the statement above closely. It sums up in one sentence the dismal state of affairs in public education..."many of whom only read at an elementary level"...

How in God's name do kids even get to high school reading at an elementary level?

What's worse is that much of this article is about teacher layoffs and educators screaming and crying how budget cuts and teacher layoffs are going to hurt education and these students.

Since these kids are now in high school and can't read and it's obvious they weren't on grade level when the district HAD MONEY, crying about cuts in funding becomes a moot point doesn't it?

Please make sure you know where the next crop of BOE candidates stand on the issues because we cannot afford MECKfuture types running for school board whose agenda is spend tax money at any cost "for the children", without any rational reason(s) for doing so....

Anonymous said...

Before jumping on the bandwagon for any candidate, voters should carefully examine their backgrounds, their affiliate groups, and their political philosophy. It's great to say you want candidates that are against pay for performance but be sure you also know what these candidates support. Meck ACTS is very much into "diversity" politics. Louise Woods is one of its founders and still quite active behind the scenes. Tom Tate is closely tied to the group. Any candidate they support is likely to favor an assignment shakeup that would only contribute to bright flight.

Kimberly Helms said...

As a conservative, I would love to run, but honestly, this is such a big mess and so full of people who are stuck on one issue or the other and don't actually want to find a solution if it means giving up anything they want, it would be a futile effort. We need someone who understands how to approach these issues analytically, with a problem solving view, not a 'make someone happy' view. We will all be happy when we can send kids to school knowing they will be safe and educated. That's all most parents want. A huge problem is all the parents that see school as a babysitting service, not a tool and pathway to a better future for their kids, if they do the work.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely amazing how many people can blurt out their opinions about getting the facts when they OBVIOUSLY don't have them themselves. Really, some are so quick to slam others opinions because they don't coincide with their own. Step back people, what is the priority and who has the desire and willpower to get us there. It's having different opinions and takes on issues that enlightens and enriches us all. Why is everyone so focused on one right and one wrong?

Melissa S said...

Elyse Dashew is one of the most hard-working and ethical people I know.

Wiley Coyote said...

Hard working and ethics are great traits.

I have them as well, but one other trait I have is not to buy into the status quo and suggest throwing money at problems year after year.

..."Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"...

When Gorman states Bright Beginnings isn't worth the money being spent and you have people out there blindly asking for millions more to continu funding it?

Their hard work and ethics traits go right out the door.

But then again, that's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

My vote will go to candidates that support quality teaching, not excessive testing. Too bad we have already spent millions of dollars on poorly designed tests. Hopefully instruction will not stop for meaningless testing next year.

Anonymous said...

So like Trent Merchant - talking out of both sides of his mouth until the very end. Good Riddance!!

Anonymous said...

Pete Gorman, "Hit the road Jack and don't ya come back no mo,no mo,no mo, no mo!"

Anonymous said...

To whomever wrote the editorial that "Gorman Never Blinked" - what have you been drinking? Talk about buying the party line with absolutely no insight! You are a shame! Morale in the school system among teachers is at an all time low, and "Pete"s trustworthiness has been openly questioned in these very blogs. He has traded trained teachers for kids on a one or two year project - but he has one thing at least to his credit - His smoke and mirrors have succeeded at fooling the less than intelligent reporters at the Observer. How on earth can you praise the guy that pretty much killed CMS? He was only in it for himself from the start - schmoozing everyone that would possibly pay him large rewards in the future. Is it any wonder this self-serving #!@# resigned just when he was being found out - just when he was firing teachers and letting media specialists go in an age of media learning? Maybe now the millions wasted on this "testing" which was really costing students educational time will mercifully come to an end. I hear MANY teachers saying they lost 6 to 9 weeks of teaching time to Gorman's idiotic programs. If you want the students to achieve - hey, here's a concept - let the teachers teach! He is a self-serving idiot, and I would not be a bit surprised to find out in the end that this positioning of Pete has cost is many millions that we are unaware of as of today! Wait - he was a genius - at least to even more idiotic Charlotte Observer "education" reporters and editorial writers. By the way - what qualifies you guys for this job anyway? It would seem that whatever it is, it has nothing to do with knowledge about education - or journalism, or investigative reporting for that matter. I'd really like to know.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 10:39...

CMS was dead before Gorman got here.

The bleeding heart, spend money at all cost "for the children" status quo mantra was all we heard.

We built schools that didn't need to be built, or in the wrong places and some were overcrowded before the doors even opened.

Regarding Ann & Eric, they certainly don't need me to stand up for them, but of all the "reporters/bloggers" on the Observer, these two provide more real data and information than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Our school system has very little in the past 30 years although the amount of money thrown at it has multiplied rapidly. When Gorman and Davis tried to shake things up, the teachers have started squealing. Basically, the teachers want to run the school system, but we've got lots of lousy teachers in the system. We have to test and institute PFP to get rid of some of our most awful teachers. These teachers will stop at nothing to keep things just the way they've always been. VOTE FOR ANYBODY WHO SUPPORTS PFP.

Anonymous said...

Have you guys seen the large banners in front of an Apt. community called Hampden Creste on Wendover next to Federal Express/Home Depot? It was struggling and bought by the Charlotte Housing it's now off the tax rolls. Now this CHA property is advertising prominently: MYERS PARK HIGH SCHOOL. In other words, let's get a federal grant to take a business off the tax rolls and then see if we can't entice more non-property-tax paying parents/children into jamming their children into Myers Park. Awesome! Get no taxes...spent federal money and try to drive more kids into Myers Park....does anybody else see a problem with this?

tarhoosier said...

Anon (6 pm):
I see no trouble with a poorly run apartment block being taken over by a housing authority. The better run management will provide a better environment for tenants and neighbors alike. Myers Park is the high school regardless of the owner/manager. If the intent is to draw those who care about their children's school, then that proves the point. Many low income families have vouchers to use for rent regardless who is the owner/manager of the units.
If Hampton Creste was a failing investment for the owners there are few better choices.

Anonymous said...

Except, as you know, the Charlotte Housing Authority does not pay property tax...which funds the school system. So, they took a tax producing asset off the Meck. Co. tax rolls using government funds (our taxes)and now are aggressively advertising this community to those with vouchers AND school age children using the reputation of this area's HS. Meanwhile, the county manager tells us we don't have enough money for schools so the average hard-working homeowner in the MPHS attendance zone will see his tax bill go up about 40%. Sounds like a wonderful social engineering experiment using tax dollars. Of course, part of this experiment was accomplished by Charles Woodyard cutting a deal with Peter Pappas and Allen Tate on that Live Oak/Whole Foods property in Southpark. I'm sure those guys don't mind more MPHS students because their families, as well as mayor Foxx, send their kids to private schools like PD, Latin, etc.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Thanks, Wylie! 10:39, you probably don't want our resumes. Bottom line is what qualifies us is we get hired as reporters and we delve in. We're always learning as we go, and believe it or not, criticism from sources and readers is one of the best ways to learn. I'm just not real clear on what's bothering you. The things you mention -- layoffs, low teacher morale -- are all things we've reported on in some detail, along with concerns about performance pay, testing and Gorman's style.

I understand if you disagree with editorials (such as "Gorman Never Blinked") but Eric and I aren't consulted on those.

Wiley Coyote said...


I'm not sure what you're referring to.

You may be mistaking me with a person who commented above me at 10:39.

Regarding the "Gorman Never Blinked" piece, I didn't disagree with it.

I made the comment that now with Gorman gone, the system will return to the sad, status quo state it was in before he got here.

Anonymous said...

I also hope that you will ask each candidate where they stand on the issues and force them to answer it clearly. I am tired of the Observer supporting the awful policies of CMS, like forcing teachers to work an extra hour with no discussion on how it impacts teachers. Message sent: "We don't give a crap how it affects teachers because they have no rights. We can do anything to them and we don't respect them."
I am disappointed that more outrage was not shown through your columns. What about the fact that CMS is hiring teachers off of the street this year under the guise of a transfer system that allows for inside transfers for only 5 days? Now all a principal has to do is wait 5 days to hire that student teacher that was at his/her school instead of interviewing all the immensely qualified candidates in the district. CMS should have had a legitimate fair in which teachers who have the best credentials and devoted their careers to CMS were given a valid chance to apply without principals having already made up their minds. Where is your investigative reporting????

Ann Doss Helms said...

Issues? Absolutely, though I won't put much energy into this until we know the full slate of candidates (filing ends July 15).

Outrage? Sorry, not gonna happen. A blog doesn't turn a reporter into an opinion columnist. Can't cover everyone fairly if I take sides and throw verbal punches.