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Dashew, De La Jara, Shipp Win CMS Board Seats

Dashew, De La Jara and Shipp
Elyse Dashew (top), Lenora Shipp (bottom left) and Jennifer De La Jara won CMS Board seats Tuesday.

Incumbent Elyse Dashew and newcomers Jennifer De La Jara and Lenora Shipp won at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday.

They were the top three finishers among 13  candidates. The results are unlikely to bring a major shakeup, despite controversy over such issues as the secretive ouster of a superintendent and clashes over suburban school construction.

"I think when you talk to many parents they are actually very satisfied with CMS," said De La Jara, a political newcomer who advocated for collaboration and unity. "But, you know, we definitely have obstacles ahead of us."

Dashew, the school board's vice chair and the only incumbent on the ballot, won the most votes with 13% of the total, according to final but unofficial results.

In her four years on the board, Dashew has been part of several controversial decisions, including the forced resignation of Superintendent Clayton Wilcox in August, a 2018 vote to penalize town governments that can create municipal charter schools, and student assignment changes approved in 2016 and 2017.

Dashew said Tuesday night the biggest challenge facing the new board is the persistent struggle to provide better outcomes and opportunities for students of color and poverty.

"The board has a lot of work to do to take a good look at what’s causing these problems and what we can do to make it better, to give all of our kids access to the opportunities they deserve," Dashew said.

De La Jara, who has two middle-school children in CMS, works as education director for the International House. She says her 18 years of work with the immigrant community will help bring that voice into the discussion of public education in the district with North Carolina's largest immigrant enrollment. She got 12.4% of the votes.

De La Jara lives in Davidson -- the only school board candidate who doesn't live in Charlotte. She says she worked to build connections with all parts of the county.

"I look forward because of the relationships that I’ve built in the various towns to collaborating and bringing more unity to the county," she said Tuesday night.

The race for the third seat was tight: Retired principal Lenora Shipp edged out lawyer and CMS parent Stephanie Sneed by 187 votes, with 10.6%.

Shipp retired as principal of Nations Ford Elementary School in 2014 after working 33 years for CMS. She touted her deep connections with the district -- she also went to school in CMS -- and her experience with 10 superintendents. Shipp was one of the high-performing principals tapped by former Superintendent Peter Gorman as part of his strategic staffing program to put teams of effective educators into struggling high-poverty schools.

Shipp steps in as board Chair Mary McCray, a retired teacher and former president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, steps aside. Active CMS employees aren't eligible to serve on the board.

Ericka Ellis-Stewart joins McCray in leaving the board after eight years in office.

The CMS board oversees the education of almost 150,000 students, a work force of more than 19,000 and a $1.5 billion budget.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.