Members of a special education committee in Huntersville recommend that town officials move forward with operating their own charter school.
The Educational Options Study Commission presented its recommendations Monday night to Huntersville commisisoners. Commission members have been meeting since the end of last year to come up with ways to ease overcrowding. Forming their own charter or partnering with an existing charter school has been a top consideration since state legislators passed a bill last year that gave Huntsville, Matthews, Cornelius and Mint Hill the green light to operate their own charters.
Former County Commissioner Jim Puckett, who sits on the education commission, says the commission recommends that the town not only form its own charter school but break away from CMS.
“In the long run, we believe what is best for the towns in North Mecklenburg is to have our own school system,” Puckett said. “That will take years to accomplish but in the meantime, we’ll pursue a municipal charter and it could be free standing or partnering with an existing charter.”
Town officials have spoken of separating from CMS in the past, saying the district is too large and keeps many students from attending schools near their homes.
In sometimes heated discussions, CMS officials have made it clear that they are against breaking up the district and do not support charters in the townships. Last year, CMS board members even passed a rule that gives higher priority for new schools to towns that agree not to operate charters. They say they realize overcrowding is an issue in North Mecklenburg, but other schools are also overcrowded and in worse condition. CMS officials also point out that the towns received additional classrooms and schools in past bond referendums.
Huntersville officials have mentioned giving children of residents in the town priority in attending a charter there. CMS officials say that would lead to more segregation, since Huntersville is a predominately white and high income area.
“The towns are looking to be as diverse both socially economically and racially,” Puckett said. "We are happy with the diversity we have. Can we be more diverse? Most assuredly in the future, but we don’t think it’s not up to the school system to socially manipulate the population.”
Residents and town officials have voiced fears that CMS will resort to busing in the future to make schools more diverse, something Puckett says would not be fair to North Meck residents.
“CMS will have to figure out how to deal with challenges they have without looking for white knights in other areas. The sooner they realize they have to deal with challenges where they are rather than spread them for relief, the better kids will be served,” Puckett said.
CMS officials did meet with Huntersville commission members before the vote was taken on the recommendations to town commissioners. Last year, CMS officials also formed a committee with representatives from the towns to address overcrowding but the two sides remain far apart on solutions.