Thank you for joining us here today.
I first thank and recognize several people with me today, and those who are already publicly supporting my campaign:
- Tim Morgan, CMS Board of Education Vice-Chair;
- Eric Davis, Paul Bailey and Rhonda Lennon, fellow Board of Education members;
- John Bradford and Rob Bryan, NC House of Representatives;
- Ed Driggs, Charlotte City Council;
- Matthew Ridenhour and Jim Puckett, Mecklenburg County Commissioners;
- John Lassiter, former City Council member and School Board member; and
- Lynn Murphy Wheeler, former City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem.
I thank the many members of the Committee to Elect Jeremy Stephenson who are working so hard to get me elected.
And most of all, my wife Katherine and daughter Hazel, without their support, I could never do this.
I also need to thank my Mother and Father, both former teachers, my grandmother Margaret Stone Stephenson, a career teacher, and my little sister, a teacher until she made the difficult decision to leave the profession. I am the product of large and diverse public schools, and those teachers in my life, and in my family, brought me to where I am today. I also stand here because one grandfather, Wilmar Chulock, marched on Washington with Dr. King, and my other grandfather, Stan Stephenson, a World War Two veteran in the Pacific, returned to be County Auditor in Marion, Indiana for many, many years. Public service is a core of who I am, and I think of them as I stand here today.
It means more than you will ever know to have so many people offering support on this important day of my life.
CMS is in era of unprecedented academic accomplishments.
Through the tireless work of our students, teachers and administrators, proficiency scores have increased in math, reading, science, civics & economics, and history. Achievement gaps are shrinking between various student cohorts, even as the scores of our top performing students continue to rise. The number and percentage of high school students graduating from CMS is at an all-time high, pumping millions in increased earning capacity into our local community, tangibly improving lives.
These academic successes result in large part from decisions by district officials over the last 5 years. Some of these decisions include: hiring Ann Clark as Superintendent, proliferation of substantively and geographically diverse magnet programs, weighted and strategic staffing programs, increased emphasis upon an effective teacher in every classroom and a strong principal at every school, and a willingness to engage with, and listen to, the community.
It is in this context of success that CMS finds itself at a crossroads. Our previous Superintendent resigned under less than optimal circumstances. We face a critical teacher shortage as some of the best leave the profession and it becomes harder to attract new talent. Tomorrow’s economy demands students be better prepared for the next step after high school, whatever that step may be.
I am dedicated to tackling these challenges, and bring a business minded common sense approach. Therefore I am announcing that I will seek an at-large position on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and humbly ask the citizens of Mecklenburg County for their support. I am proud to already have the support of a diverse array of current Board members, other elected officials, and members of the community.
These folks have placed their trust in my campaign because we will focus on three key areas to help our students:
First, we must continue efforts to provide effective schools for all students. The backbone of this initiative is strong principals at every school and effective teachers in every classroom. Credit for tremendous academic growth over the last 5 years begins with our teachers, and we must reward them for their success. The legislature has made strides in raising base pay for our teachers but CMS does not control teacher pay. If elected I will do everything I can to make CMS the best place to work, and will place the treatment of our employees as priority number one. I will vocally advocate for higher pay for our classroom employees at the county and state level.
Second, we will focus on the efficient use of resources and treat an investment in education as economic development. We will continue to face budget pressures over the next several years. CMS must to continue to look for operational efficiencies and cost savings but also must credibly inform funding partners, the State of North Carolina and Mecklenburg County, of CMS’ legitimate needs and challenges. We must focus on programs that are working, like at Olympic Community of Schools and Alignment Southwest Charlotte, described by Superintendent Clark as “a beacon for our district, and for the nation”, and figure how to scale their best practices to benefit as many students as possible. Preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs, and investing in those jobs through public K-12 education, is also our best tool to combat generational poverty.
Finally, we must focus on the need for effective leadership during this time of transition. Hiring a new superintendent will be the most important decision the new Board will make. The question is simple, do we want a new superintendent who will boldly heed the community demand for continued progress, or will we move backwards? I believe a majority of citizens in Mecklenburg County want us to continue to move forward, and that is why I am confident that come November 3rd, I will be elected by the citizens of Mecklenburg County as the next At Large Board member for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
With the formal remarks complete, I will be glad to talk with members of the media who are here today.