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Politics

CMS Board election reporter Q and A

http://66.225.205.104/SO20091104QA.mp3

GRAF: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School board will have some new blood after last night's elections. The technically non-partisan board will now have two independents, three Republicans and four Democrats. Some long-time members are finishing up their terms before the district takes on some hefty issues. WFAE's Simone Orendain joins me now for a run-down of where the newbies stand. Simone, there's been a lot of buzz about student assignment of late and how school boundaries will be drawn. What do the new members think of this issue? ORENDAIN: Several of the newly elected members are really looking for something that will make this process more open for parents. Tim Morgan's district -that's district six - includes the new Mint Hill high school, which brought a lot of controversy after CMS staffers basically drew the town out of the feeder pattern for that school. Morgan says the guiding principles for setting boundaries are just too vague. Morgan: "Dr. Gorman will tell you that he, based on the current list of guidelines, dependent on who asks and what they want, he can justify almost any student reassignment plan." He's referring to Superintendent Peter Gorman, of course, and Rhonda Lennon who won in the first district says there's been too much political talk about this. GRAF: Let's talk of her and let's talk of political talk. Lennon will be taking over Larry Gauvreau's old seat from north Mecklenburg County. Gauvreau served for two terms and he's been a very vocal critic of CMS. How similar to Gauvreau is Rhonda Lennon? ORENDAIN: Well, I think she's very much focused on clearer guidelines for the student assignment process and really reigning in spending, which Gauvreau was all about. But here's something where she's the polar opposite of Gauvreau: Lennon: "I think that Dr. Gorman has done a great job and I really think with a strong board behind him, that we're going to see things get better." GRAF: Apart from Rhonda Lennon, what do the other new members think of the Superintendent? ORENDAIN: Well, I think he'll have strong support from them. They generally like what he's done so far as far as putting strong leaders in schools. The biggest criticism actually comes from Richard McElrath who won in the second district - that's in southwest Mecklenburg - and this district has a high concentration of struggling schools. McElrath says Gorman's plan to put in strong principals just isn't enough; he thinks there should be strong teachers as well. GRAF: Simone, what about the budget? The district just got through a very tough year. ORENDAIN: Not surprisingly they really want to keep an eye on spending in this recession. Several have said they want to look at consolidating services with CMS and the County. McElrath admits he's going to have to do a lot of homework to do to get familiar with the budget process. Speaking of that homework part, every new member is going to have to do it on this board. As the outgoing chair Molly Griffin says, a seasoned board member puts a good 15 hours a week into this stuff, and for people on the learning curve, it's more like a fulltime job. GRAF: WFAE's Simone Orendain, thanks for your time this morning. ORENDAIN: You're welcome.