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At Town Hall, CMS Board Members Project Uncertainty Over Matthews' Charters

At a town hall, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board members discuss HB514 and the town of Matthews.
Michael Falero
At a town hall, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board members discuss HB514 and the town of Matthews.

CMS leaders took questions last night from parents and community members about a bill that would allow the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill to create their own charter schools. CMS board members told about 100 people gathered at Providence High School that HB514 presented a lot of uncertainties. 

“This is a whole, brand new, unknown way to create a new kind of charter that is just fraught with uncertainty and we just really feel it needs a lot of vetting and careful thought and checking in with you guys the constituents,” said at-large board member Elyse Dashew. 

CMS passed out fliers listing what the district sees as a few possible outcomes if Matthews were to open its own charter. Among them, having to re-assign some students in the area if a large number of students leave to go to a new charter.   

People submitted comments on index cards. A couple of them indicated they felt CMS was threatening families in Matthews with re-assignment after Matthews’ town commissioners voted to support the bill. Some said a Matthews’ charter would prevent overcrowding in surrounding schools. Some didn’t give an opinion, but wanted to know how a charter would affect their children.

Matthews resident Norah Burke expects to send her son to Elizabeth Lane Elementary this fall. She’s against the bill and says it appears the CMS board has negotiated in good faith with town leaders. 

“They sound very willing to compromise and to find solutions that work for both Matthews and CMS," Burke said. "I wonder why our town council isn’t working harder to work with them.”

Some Matthews officials say the legislation is an insurance policy to keep their concerns on CMS’s radar. Those include worries about overcrowding and ensuring the town's residents can continue to go to schools close to home. 

Matthews Commissioner John Urban has written a compromise proposal with District 6 school board member Sean Strain.

That proposal would see Matthews back down on its support for HB 514. In exchange, CMS would commit to reducing its reliance on trailer classrooms, building a new school in Matthews within ten years, and having Matthews town commissioners approve student assignment changes.

CMS board chairwoman Mary McCray told WFAE that aspects of the proposal are similar to a compromise that CMS had previously offered Matthews and added the CMS board could not “abdicate” its authority over student assignments, saying that would be “unlawful.”

The Town of Matthews has said the decision to support HB 514 does not mean the town will take any action should it be signed into law. 

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