Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More join crowded school board race

After a tumultous year filled with budget cuts, school closings, teacher layoffs and the superintendent's resignation, you might think one of the hardest political jobs in Charlotte right now would be serving as a school board member.

If that's the case, it's certainly not scaring people away from the race for three at-large seats up for grabs on this November's ballot. Today, Ericka Ellis-Stewart, a Harding University High parent leader and a leader in the MeckFUTURE parents' group, is filing to run. That makes her the second MeckFUTURE member to file, joining group co-founder Elyse Dashew. Ellis-Stewart said in a press release that she plans to bring "thoughtful and practical leadership" to the board, with an emphasis on greater openness in decision-making, effective use of resources, and rigorous coursework.

Lloyd Scher, the outspoken former Mecklenburg commissioner, told me yesterday that he's about to jump into the race, too. He said he plans to file on Friday morning at about 10:30 a.m., which would put him at the board of elections right before incumbent Kaye McGarry plans to appear and announce her plans.

Scher, who served on the commission from 1992 to 2000, didn't have kind words for former Superintendent Peter Gorman. He said Gorman misled the public and the school board this year when he said schools were struggling with a $100 million budget gap. CMS officials have said that gap only disappeared after the state and the county came in with better-than-expected budget support for local schools, but Scher doesn't buy it. Gorman, he said, was too far out in front of the school board on the budget and on pay-for-performance plans for teachers.

Darrin Rankin, a Huntersville insurance agent who ran at-large for city council in 2009, told me he's also announcing at 11 a.m. Friday. Rankin, who ran for city council as a Democratic candidate, said at the time that he hadn't tried for office previously and was running as a concerned citizen and businessman.

Ellis-Stewart brings the number of officially filed candidates to nine. With McGarry, Scher, Rankin and former teacher's union leader Mary McCray voicing plans to join them, it appears there will be at least 13 candidates vying for three seats.

A crowded field, indeed.

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