Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ellis-Stewart recaps eventful year

In case anyone has forgotten how much went on in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this year, board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart summed it up in a statement released just before she turned over the post to Mary McCray, who has been vice chair for the past year. Members unanimously chose McCray their new chairman and Tim Morgan as vice chair.

Here's Ellis-Stewart's statement:

For the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, this has been a productive year with many significant accomplishments.  Throughout 2012, this board has had numerous successes as it has worked to improve the lives of children throughout Mecklenburg County. Among the most notable is the completion of the Superintendent search, the subsequent hiring of Dr. Heath Morrison as CMS Superintendent, and the adoption of the 2012-2013 budget which provided a three percent compensation adjustment to all CMS employees.  With every decision, this board balanced the many needs of the district with fiscal restraint and a focus on quality.

In 2012, the CMS board has also been able to:
•           Establish the Inter-Governmental Relationships Committee, a new board committee designed to focus our legislative efforts and to improve our working relationships with other local and state governing bodies,
•           Draft and adopt the 2012 and 2013 CMS Legislative Agenda, a two-part document which outlined our priorities at the State and local level.
•           Convene multiple board retreats and work sessions to focus on improving the working relationships among board members, on-boarding our new superintendent and to discuss the ways in which we approach the governance of the district,
•           Approve a Memorandum of Understanding and contract outlining our partnership and support of Project LIFT,
•           Approve $59 million in construction contracts in support of new and replacement schools at Bain Elementary, Pineville Elementary, McClintock Middle and the Torrence Creek Elementary Relief School, and
•           Act in the best interest of children and families by reversing the decision to merge First Ward Creative Arts and University Park Creative Arts.

During my term as board chair, I have worked hard to stay abreast of national trends and to further my knowledge of how school boards can be most effective. I have formed relationships with school board members and policy leaders from across the country. I have used what I have gained from these interactions to inform my own perspective on issues we face here in Mecklenburg County such as teacher compensation and performance models, curriculum innovations, community-based schools partnerships and creating students who are career and college ready. As my colleagues can attest to, I am passionate about the need to get more students to and successfully through Algebra I by 8th grade; creating global citizens by bringing foreign language instruction back into our elementary schools and creating more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning opportunities for our students.

As a newly elected public servant, it has been an honor to serve in this role for the past year. This role while rewarding is not without its challenges. The work is significant and can be a time consuming undertaking. As previous chairs can attest; you spend many hours on the telephone and in meetings sharing information and working towards consensus, attending numerous public events and signing mountains of district contracts. There is a tremendous learning curve, but through it all, I have worked to handle myself with grace and dignity.

In 2013, this board will have new leadership as I intend to nominate and vote for Mary McCray to serve as chair for the coming year. After serving as chair, I have a great appreciation for the work that it requires. This work requires the courage to collaborate, to build consensus and to do whatever it takes to build the best school district in the country. There are nine members on this board and often at least nine different perspectives on how to define a problem and work towards a solution. As an outgoing chair, I understand the experiences and challenges of leading this body and I wish the new leadership well in their endeavors and will work with them as we continue to build a school district the community wants and deserves.

When I ran for school board, I did so as a passionate advocate for education who desired to provide the community with a voice on issues impacting our schools.  I look forward to continuing to use my skills and abilities to work on behalf of students, families and teachers throughout this district. I also desire to become more involved with education issues and policy at the national level.  I am currently seeking a seat on a national steering committee whose work is focused on issues facing urban boards of education.  Additionally, I want to play a more active role in the work of our board committees, particularly the Inter-Government Relationships and Policy committees. I am as committed as ever to the success of this district, improving outcomes for our students and serving this community. I look forward to continuing to advance the work of this district, both locally and nationally.

In closing, I would like to thank my fellow board members, Dr. Morrison and his staff and the community for your support during my tenure.