MATTHEWS – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has made school construction in Matthews a priority again after town leaders vowed Feb. 10 not to build municipal charter schools as outlined in House Bill 514.
The school board voted Feb. 12 to add Matthews to its list of towns receiving capital funding priority, which includes Charlotte, Cornelius, Davidson and Pineville. Mint Hill and Huntersville are still on the outs with the district.
“I think we got into a really negative space previously,” Mayor John Higdon told Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly of the commission’s relationship with CMS. “I guess there was some ill will generated from the town entering House Bill 514 and then the Municipal Concerns Act that the board did kind of strained our relationship and we just want to put that all behind us.”
Repairing the relationship between the Town of Matthews and CMS was a big talking point during the 2019 election.
Higdon’s campaign emphasized the importance of repairing this relationship. Higdon said he spoke with hundreds of CMS parents who were concerned about the conflict. He said almost without fail, none of the parents he spoke with believed the town should enter into the charter school business.
Jennifer De La Jara, who joined the school board as an at-large member after the 2019 election, received similar
feedback from constituents.
“Many constituents were fairly unaware of what the legislation proposed and upon finding out more about it, were actually against the idea of municipal charter schools,” De La Jara said. “Observing the constituents of Matthews this past year, parents and residents expressing their opposition both verbally and ultimately with their vote was a concrete display of democracy at work.”
Before the election, Higdon reached out individually to CMS chairperson Elyse Dashew and former member-at-large Mary McCray to express his desire to rebuild their relationship, rather than work in opposition. He said they were receptive.
Higdon has had some phone conversations with school board members, which eventually led to an in-person meeting Jan. 29 with the school board, including CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.
Higdon was joined by Mayor Pro Tem Renee Garner, Commissioner Jeff Miller, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett and Assistant Town Manager Becky Hawke.
During the meeting, town representatives and school board members discussed their desire to work collaboratively on the issues facing Matthews students.
Higdon said he and Dashew spearheaded the initiative and laid the groundwork for progress. He is grateful to have Winston’s full support.
In addition to gaining support of CMS, the effort to rebuild this relationship also had the support of Matthews commissioners.
Commissioners voted unanimously Feb. 10 to pass a resolution to publicly express their desire to work with CMS. The resolution explained that while the intention of House Bill 514 was to give Matthews an alternative option, the town does not plan to pursue the development of a municipal charter school in the foreseeable future. The resolution states that it is neither financially feasible nor necessary to do so.
Commissioners agreed that it would be in the best interest of Matthews children and families to rebuild the relationship with CMS. The motion to pass the resolution was made by Miller and seconded by Larry Whitley.
“I’m very excited to support this and have talked to countless parents and community members since House Bill 514 was supported initially and have heard very few people who actually did support it,” Garner said. “I’m glad to be a part of this.”