by Mike Cooper
School board races are technically non-partisan, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education winners Erika Ellis-Stewart and Mary T. McCray certainly benefited from the Democratic momentum of Tuesday's elections.
“I’m extremely proud of the school board results, and of Erika Ellis-Stewart and Mary McCray,” said Aisha Dew, chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party.
After three incumbent school board members stepped down, 14 names found themselves on the ballot to replace them in Tuesday's election. The voters could choose three, and the three winners turned out to be Ellis-Stewart with 15 percent of the vote, McCray with 11 percent, and Tim Morgan, who squeaked in with 10.74 percent, barely surpassing the 10.16 percent garnered by Elyse Dashew.
“There was a lot of controversy with the school board race along with the amount of candidates involved,” said Tori Taylor, former executive director of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. “Those school board candidates did a really great job of getting their message out about what was at stake with school closings and potential cutbacks.”
Here's how the Charlotte Observer's Ann Doss Helms reported it this morning:
Ellis-Stewart, a first-time candidate who emerged as a critic of last year's school closings, led the 14-person ballot with 35,000 votes, or 15.19 percent of the total. A CMS parent and former dropout prevention worker, she argued that the current leadership didn't treat minority children and low-income neighborhoods fairly.Read Helms' entire piece here.
"Voters are wanting a fresh perspective," Ellis-Stewart said. "They want to focus on student achievement and what we can do to build teacher morale."
McCray, a retired teacher who stepped down this summer as head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said voters recognized her as "the lady that fights for the teachers," at a time when many of CMS' 8,900 teachers have felt battered by testing, layoffs, pay freezes and a rocky start to performance pay. She had 26,319 votes, or 11.42 percent.
She said Tuesday night it's too early to say what the results mean, but "I hope it is a different direction from where we were going."
Morgan said his move from winning in one district to winning countywide validates his positive campaign, focusing on the gains CMS has made. He campaigned on keeping CMS on the reform path charted by the current board and recently resigned Superintendent Peter Gorman. He had 24,822 votes, or 10.77 percent.