As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools seniors receive their diplomas, at least five adults are showing off credentials of their own—as candidates for the county’s Board of Education.
The election isn’t until November, and three at-large seats will be up for grabs. District races are scheduled for 2017. Some of the candidates have run before. Others have served on the board. And there are still questions about some of the current at-large members.
Here’s a look at the declared candidates:
Dashew, a mother of two CMS students, has been active in the Charlotte education advocacy arena for years, and is one of the most visible public school boosters. She ran for an at-large seat in 2011—her first attempt at elected office—and lost by about 1,300 votes. She’s led school funding causes, including a movement in 2011 and 2012 to rally against deep budget cuts for CMS. Dashew was among the supporters of a failed 2014 sales tax referendum that would have generated millions of dollars for CMS employee raises.
A first-term member of the board, Ellis-Stewart served as chair from 2011-2013. She won more votes than any other candidate in the 2011 at-large election. Ellis-Stewart has pushed for CMS to tackle its student assignment boundaries over the next two years as a way to address the district’s ongoing challenges with poverty and racial equity.
Flowers sought an appointment to the school board earlier this year, after Joyce Waddell was elected to the General Assembly. The board picked someone else, and Flowers said he would run at-large in November. In 2011, when the district was contemplating a wave of controversial school closures to trim its budget, Flowers led a “Save Our Schools” coalition. Like Dashew, he was involved with the group that supported Mecklenburg’s 2014 sales tax referendum.
A labor and employment attorney, Stephenson is making his first run for office, and is the only Republican currently in the race. He spoke to the school board regularly last year about changes to school boundary lines, and has pushed the business community to be more actively involved in public education advocacy.
After Tim Morgan won an at-large seat on the school board in 2011, the board picked Stinson-Wesley to fill his District 6 seat. She served the remainder of his term, but chose not to run for the seat in 2013. Stinson-Wesley is a United Methodist minister.
Notably absent from the list of candidates are board Chairwoman Mary McCray and Vice Chairman Tim Morgan, who have said they’ll decide closer to July’s filing deadline. Candidates can begin submitting paperwork to the Board of Elections on July 6. Filing ends on July 17.
Board of Education elections typically don’t heat up until after school starts back in August; it’s hard to get voters to feel enthusiastic about schoolhouse issues when kids are on summer vacation. That leaves candidates with a little more than two months to campaign across an increasingly diverse county. There are more groups to court than ever before, and more issues to discuss.
A large field makes that challenge even more daunting—the last at-large school board election had 14 candidates running for three seats.