Huntersville Official Posts, Then Pulls, Motion To Endorse A North Meck School District

Oct 4, 2019

For a few hours this week, the town of Huntersville seemed poised to vote on a resolution endorsing a separate school district for northern Mecklenburg County.

Town Commissioner Mark Gibbons said Friday he asked Mayor John Aneralla to put the resolution on Monday's agenda in hopes of casting a vote for it before he leaves office at year's end. He withdrew it, he says, in the face of social media criticism and questions about whether he was trying to sway votes in the Nov. 5 municipal election.

The vote would have been largely symbolic, Gibbons said, because only the state legislature has the power to split up a school district.

"This would probably take years," Gibbons said, "if it ever happened." 

Friday's flareup was the latest skirmish in a long battle. Some residents and elected officials in the north and south suburbs complain that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools doesn't build enough schools in their area, threatens to upend their community schools by drawing new boundaries and neglects suburban issues.

"For the last decade and a half, almost two decades, this is something that has been talked about," says school board Rhonda Cheek, who has represented northern Mecklenburg County for a decade.

The most recent battles included a 2018 state law that allows Huntersville, Cornelius, Matthews and Mint Hill to create municipal charter schools, followed by a CMS resolution that bumps those towns to the bottom of the school construction list unless they renounce that option.

On Thursday, Huntersville resident Monica Museler, a CMS parent who opposes the idea of splitting the district, came across the resolution on the town's website and posted it on Facebook. She questioned why it would come up just a month before contested races for Huntersville mayor and town commissioners.

"There’s lots of outstanding questions, there was very little public engagement and it’s 30 days before an election," Museler said. "I think it’s playing politics with the education of our children."

Cheek said the resolution quickly generated pushback among Huntersville residents.

"I feel bad for the parents and the taxpayers down in Huntersville that are not really getting a voice," she said. " I suspect there may be quite a few who turn up to share their opinions and thoughts on Monday evening."

Cheek, who lives in Davidson, also took a shot at the town government in the Facebook exchange.

"I left Huntersville in 2014. And will never go back," Cheek posted. "Cornelius and Davidson are fabulous places without the political craziness of Huntersville."

Gibbons and Aneralla said Friday that Cornelius commissioners had planned to take up a similar resolution Monday but it was also withdrawn. Cornelius Commissioner Kurt Naas, whom Gibbons said was the author of the Cornelius bill, did not respond to a call and Facebook messages asking for details.

Even after Gibbons and Aneralla said the item had been pulled from Monday's agenda, Museler urged opponents of the split to show up at Huntersville's meeting Monday, just in case.