Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dr. Plots and Bumgarner join CMS race

Hans Plotseneder and Larry Bumgarner announced today they'll continue their quests for a seat on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

Neither has had much luck so far. Plotseneder, a West Mecklenburg High School teacher, came in seventh of seven candidates in the 2007 at-large race and seventh of nine in the 2009 District 3 contest. Bumgarner, an internet activist, finished seventh of 11 in the 2003 at-large contest and third of three in the 2005 District 6 race.

But both promise to prompt some lively discussion of issues -- and Plotseneder insists he expects to muster the money and organization to be a serious contender. He posted his intent to run on his web site in January.

"This time is the real thing. Last time I was naive," said Plotseneder, who says he raised less than $1,000 for his last countywide race. The buzz is that it could take at least $50,000 to claim one of the three seats in November's election. In 2009, he says he knew he was a long shot as a white guy running in a majority-black district, but the run was "for practice and to keep my name out there."

Plotseneder, who campaigns under the nickname Dr. Plots, didn't shy from issues during his announcement today. He said he opposes the 52 year-end exams CMS officials launched this spring for rating teachers, as well as the CMS-backed House bill that would allow the district to launch performance pay without teacher approval. "Teachers are not against being paid for extra performance," he said, but the complex test-based formula known as "value added" is the wrong approach.

A registered Democrat, Plotseneder said he's most in line with current members Joyce Waddell, Richard McElrath, Tom Tate -- and Kaye McGarry, a Republican who's often at ideological odds with the three Democrats but ends up voting with them on some issues. That coalition generally falls one or two votes short of success.

Plotseneder, 67, will have to resign his teaching job if elected. He airs his views during the public comment period of most school board meetings, and was charged with trespassing when he refused to leave a contentious school-closing meeting last fall. Those charges were later dropped.

Bumgarner, who lives in the south suburbs, generally registers his views online, via sites he creates or comments on the Observer's site. He announced his candidacy on one of his sites -- in typically quirky style, illustrating it with a 1970s high school photo of himself.

He acknowledges three failed attempts at public office -- he also entered the 2004 Republican primary for a county commission seat -- and says this time will be different: "This time seeing how all those running are focused on limited agendas and special interest groups he will be doing it that way as it seems that is the way people are elected in Charlotte Mecklenburg." His planks: Breaking up CMS, providing vouchers that can be used for private schools and eliminating salaries for school board members.

Filing for the nonpartisan race is July 1-15. Two of the three incumbents, Trent Merchant and Joe White, say they won't run, and Kaye McGarry hasn't announced her intentions. Elyse Dashew and De Shauna McLamb are the other announced candidates; read the last roundup here.

So far, no one has rolled out the kind of powerhouse campaign that carried board Chair Eric Davis to victory in District 5 two years ago. The coming months will test who can grab the attention of voters across a sprawling county, in an off-year election that traditionally leaves four of five registered voters sitting at home.

Bumgarner and Plotseneder may not take the lead on campaign force, but they do bring a sense of humor along with their strong views. Plotseneder, a native of Austria, knows his accent is reminiscent of a certain scandal-ridden actor/governor; he once dubbed himself "The Gap Terminator" in reference to his plans to eliminate race-based achievement gaps. And in 2008 comments the board about bullying of homosexual students, he proclaimed: "Who knows? Maybe I'm gay myself. I haven't tried it."

Bumgarner gave me a full-out belly laugh when I googled myself and landed on this creatively illustrated post on one of his blogs.

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