At-large school board candidates interviewed on 10 topics


Sept. 30, 2011, from material from 26 pages originally posted on or before Sept. 30, 2011

Fourteen candidates in the 2011 election for three at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education participated in 45-minute videotaped interviews. The interviews were conducted between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18, at the beginning of the campaign.

This project was undertaken as a public service project, with a number of community organizations invited to participate. Two community groups chose ultimately to participate. The Fellowship hopes that the wealth of information contained in these videos will help create an informed and engaged citizenry during this school board election season. The Fellowship does not endorse candidates.

The candidates were read 10 questions and asked to comment. [A couple of times the candidate was not asked one of the questions.] Some of the candidates discussed other subjects, so the videos below occasionally contain material off topic. The clips generally retain the order of the original discussion and have not been edited to sort out the subjects further. Questioners were Carol Sawyer and Louise Woods from Mecklenburg ACTS and Araminta Johnston, Steve Johnston and Leonard R. (Deacon) Jones from the Swann Fellowship. Elyse Dashew agreed to a second interview after the videotape from the first interview was erased.

As originally posted, the YouTube videos were embedded in windows in the Fellowship website’s pages, and were displayed two ways.

A set of 10 pages showed videos by topic. A page on Topic 6 showed videos of all candidates who answered the question.

Another set of pages were devoted to the candidates, with a candidate’s answers to all questions displayed on a single page.

When additional topics beyond the 10 main topics were addressed, the answers were included on candidate pages.

Lisa Hundley and DeShauna McLamb did not participate in the interviews. Hundley sent in written answers on Aug. 21, but she withdrew Oct. 6. McLamb submitted biographical information by e-mail on Sept. 8, but has not campaigned. Maria Collias withdrew shortly after filing. Scott Babbidge and Tom Davis were interviewed, but Babbidge withdrew Sept. 1, Davis on Sept. 22.

Biographical information

Candidates were asked to submit biographical information, and most did. That information was posted in Word files and may be downloaded here by candidate’s last name.

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  McLamb  Babbidge  Davis


The Filers

From the original July 15, 2011 posting

It takes a lot of something – courage, naïveté, money, experience, fortitude, ambition, commitment – to jump into a school board race in Mecklenburg County, where costs of successful at-large candidacies are huge, where the public spotlight is unrelenting, and where the issues faced by those ultimately elected will be truly wrenching.

Three of the 17 people listed below will be elected to four-year, at-large seats on the CMS school board. There is no primary.

So on this day when filing closed for the Nov. 8 school board election, we want to thank all the candidates for offering to serve the public in this most demanding of elected positions.

Below is contact information given by the candidates to the Mecklenburg Board of Elections. [Some information was added later as it became available. Names of candidates who withdraw or become inactive were moved to the bottom of the list.]

Larry Bumgarner, 9201 Morgan Glenn Dr Charlotte, NC 28227, Home (704) 919-1230, [email protected],

Elyse Dashew, PO Box 11485 Charlotte, NC 28220, Home (704) 659-1029, [email protected],

Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Home (980) 229-0338, [email protected],

Keith Hurley, Home (704) 534-8344, [email protected]

Mary T. McCray, PO Box 25331 Charlotte, NC 28229, [email protected],

DeShauna L. McLamb, 7841 Elm Tree Ln Charlotte, NC 28227, Office: PO Box 690094 Charlotte, NC 28227, Home (704) 277-2844, [email protected]

Tim Morgan, 601 Eagleton Downs Dr Suite A Pineville, NC 28134, Home (704) 577-3102, [email protected],

Ken Nelson, 620 Regency Dr Charlotte, NC 28211, Home (704) 364-4657

Hans Peter Plotseneder, Cell (704) 906-2900, [email protected],

Aaron J. Pomis, 1137 Woodside Ave Charlotte, NC 28205, Cell (704) 576-6934, [email protected],

Darrin L Rankin, 11421 Fountaingrove Dr Charlotte, NC 28262, Office 16112 Old Statesville Rd Huntersville, NC 28078, Cell (704) 661-4428, [email protected],

Lloyd Scher, 9815 Meringue Pl Charlotte, NC 28270, Home (704) 845-9083, Cell (704) 506-4020, [email protected]

Jeff Wise, 3611 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Rd Suite 204-339 Charlotte, NC 28216, [email protected],

Maria L. Collias – Withdrew in July, cell (704) 562-6236, [email protected]

Scott Babbidge – Withdrew Sept. 2, 1639 Candlewood Ridge Ln Matthews, NC 28105, cell (704) 491-7665, [email protected]

Tom Davis – Withdrew Sept. 23, 1334 Riverside Dr Charlotte, NC 28214, [email protected]

Lisa Hundley – Withdrew Oct. 6 , [email protected],


The Videos

The links below open new browser windows at YouTube for viewing of each answer.

Topic 1: The Superintendent

There are two broad schools of thought regarding the relationship between superintendents and school boards. One holds that a school board should set broad policy goals, but give the superintendent complete power to pursue those goals however he/she sees fit. The other holds that the board should be involved not only in setting goals but in actively monitoring the superintendent’s decisions. What do you see as the appropriate role for the CMS school board?

You’ll be doing a superintendent search. If you could have anybody in the country, who or what kind of person would you pick and why?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomiis 1  Pomis 2  Rankin   Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 2: Weighted student staffing

Currently, CMS uses its weighted student staffing formula to provide extra staff to schools with significant numbers of low-income children. How would you distribute staff and material resources within the district?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge Davis

Topic 3: Testing

Last year CMS expanded standardized testing, in part to evaluate teachers. The eventual goal was to give a standardized test to every child in every subject in every grade every year. Do you support this expansion of testing? Why or why not?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 4: Teacher evaluation

Last year CMS expanded standardized testing, in part to evaluate teachers. The eventual goal was to give a standardized test to every child in every subject in every grade every year. Do you support this expansion of testing? Why or why not?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 5: Early education

What, if any, should CMSs role be in preparing children for kindergarten?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 6: ‘Sound basic education’

An answer of yes or no is appropriate, but we welcome any elaboration after you answer yes or no: Do you believe that CMS can achieve the “sound basic education” mandated by the N.C. Constitution for every student in CMS if the district continues to assign students such that the bulk of children are separated by race or socioeconomic status?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 7: Greatest challenge

What do you see as the greatest challenge faced by CMS today? What do you see as the most promising strategy to overcome it?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 8: The campaign

What will make your campaign for School Board successful? What is your budget? How is fund-raising going?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 9: Mentors and allies

Who would you look to on the current board or among the candidates for mentoring or assistance? Who are your natural allies?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan [was not asked this question]  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Topic 10: Why do you want this job?

This is a hard job. Why do you want it?

Bumgarner  Dashew  Ellis-Stewart  Hurley  McCray  Morgan  Nelson  Plotseneder  Pomis  Rankin  Scher  Wise  Babbidge  Davis

Candidates’ other topics

At the end of the interview, some candidates answers questions from those listening, or addressed other issues. The videos below came out of that material.

Bumgarner on backstabing at Ed Center, and charter/CMS competition.

Ellis-Stewart on what superintendents she’s known, and would she hire any of them; more on teacher pay and morale.

Morgan on the search for a superintendent.

Nelson elaborating on his proposal to break up CMS.

Rankin on “what drives me.”

Scher on involving parents in teacher evaluations.

Wise on the role of the arts in education; on tracking equity without baseline standards; and on closing schools as an intervention to address the achievement gap.

Davis on superintendent as a lobbyist before other governmental bodies.


Facebook postings from the interviews

In the seven weeks leading up to the November 2011 school board election, The Fellowship shared on its Facebook page short quotes from the August interviews with the at-large candidates. Each quote linked back to the full body of interview material on this website.

By coincidence, the timing was such that there would be three complete rounds of quotes from the 12 candidates who had been interviewed and were still in the race when the Facebook postings began on Sept. 17. There was no post on Friday, Sept. 23.

Below are the quotes shared over Facebook.

Round 1

Saturday, Sept. 17

School candidate Larry Bumgarner: “I think the school board ought to back off trying to run the school system on a day-to-day basis, and actually find somebody that will actually run the school system. And our job is just to go in and if we have concerns for our constituents then we take care of those, that we address them through that person….” More from candidate interviews at

Sunday, Sept. 18

School candidate Ken Nelson: “It’s not CMS’s role to prepare 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten. It’s against the state constitution. And until they change the state constitution I won’t change my opinion on that.” More from candidate interviews at

Monday, Sept. 19

School candidate Aaron Pomis: “Teachers stay in classrooms when they feel successful. Research shows that’s where teachers really want to be…. Teachers crave that professional development. They crave that support. They crave that training. And if you have a great workshop, teachers are going to flock to it….” More from candidate interviews at

Tuesday, Sept. 20

School candidate Elyse Dashew: “Is it fair to pay an excellent teacher better than an OK teacher and better than a teacher who’s still really learning the ropes? And yeah, I think ultimately teachers will appreciate that as long as they have faith in the system that’s evaluating the amount of payment. And so it’s really important to have teachers engaged in this process.” More from candidate interviews at

Wednesday, Sept. 21

School candidate Darrin Rankin: “We need to deliver on our mission for CMS, and that is to maximize academic achievement by every student at every school. And that’s what I want CMS to deliver on.” More from candidate interviews at

Thursday, Sept. 22

School candidate Tom Davis: “The principal knows who [the great teachers] are…. It has to be… that empowered principal… that makes those decisions – not somebody… from downtown that’s saying, ‘We’ve got to test your teachers.’ They know… and I know for a fact that principals get rid of poor teachers. They don’t last long around high-performing principals.” More from candidate interviews at

Saturday, Sept. 24

School candidate Keith Hurley: “If you use the standardized testing system, and you also tie the teachers’ income to that test, you’ll become Atlanta…. And when I say Atlanta, all the lawsuits… two or three of the second, third, fourth in command in the Atlanta school system came from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools within the last three years.” More from candidate interviews at

Sunday, Sept. 25

School candidate Ericka Ellis-Stewart: “If we continue to allow our schools to become resegregated, we’ll continue to see a multitude of challenges…. We have a long way to go in terms of making sure that all of our students are receiving a quality education.” More at

Monday, Sept. 26

School candidate Jeff Wise: “A student starts third grade with this teacher. Does that student have to end third grade with that teacher? Maybe through the first nine weeks or the first six weeks they realize that this teacher is better suited for that [student]. So can we mix them up a little bit? Is that student good enough that they could be in fourth grade?” More at

Tuesday, Sept. 27

School candidate Mary McCray: “The greatest challenge our district faces is, we have two – one of them being I’m going to say our investment in our employees, and the second one is our top-down approach when it comes to educational reform, and the way that we are taking our educational reform with the excessiveness in testing.” More at

Wednesday, Sept. 28

School candidate Lloyd Scher: “The first thing I am looking for in a superintendent is honesty. I think we have just come through a period where teachers were told one thing and then something else happened…. Open communications…” More at

Thursday, Sept. 29

School candidate Hans Plotseneder: “When you go in the lower ranks, in the elementary schools, I have seen teachers that read the script. They have no authority to deviate. It’s dictated from top down. It’s not working…. We have to have lesson plans, to the minute down. What does this do to me?” More at

Friday, Sept. 30

School candidate Tim Morgan: “What happens if the teacher evaluation, that portion of the pay, what happens if 40% of that pay is based on how well you perform with your peers, and only 10% is based on how well your students perform? All of a sudden we’ve said it IS important, it’s more important, it’s four times more important, that you work with your fellow teachers.” More at


Round 2

Saturday, Oct. 1

School candidate Larry Bumgarner: “Honestly I don’t there’s anybody in this room, and I don’t think anybody in Charlotte that you’re going to find … that thinks CMS is spending money right. Everybody wants it spent a different way…. That’s why you have all these groups, because they’re willing to spend a million dollars in order to leverage to a billion dollars.” More at

Sunday, Oct. 2

School candidate Ken Nelson: “Put ‘Principal’s Office’ on the principal’s door rather than ‘Oficina de Principal.’ … I’m not saying it would make the school successful, but it would actually go back the the way things were 40, 50 years ago when we demanded our children learn in English. It would go back to putting traditional education back into our schools.” More at

Monday, Oct. 3

School candidate Aaron Pomis: “We spend a lot of money on curricular materials…we a lot of times purchase a portion of a program, implement it sort of halfway, and then teachers are left saying, where’s the rest of the resources? Where’s the rest of the professional development? So we kind of minimize the effects of these curricula.” More at

Tuesday, Oct. 4

School candidate Elyse Dashew: “We need all kids to have access to incredible educational opportunities. It’s going to take baby steps to get there and it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I feel called to step up and be part of the solution.” More at

Thursday, Oct. 6

School candidate Darrin Rankin: “We need someone who has strong leadership skills, someone that understands and is able to operate a business, that’s one of the big issues; someone that understands what education reform is, how children learn, the politics of education.… To narrow the search to someone from [education] I think we would be doing our school district a disservice. More at

Friday, Oct. 7

School candidate Keith Hurley: “The teacher is with those kids more hours a day than some of the parents, unfortunately, so they know. We can learn more from them from these underperforming schools, as far as testing goes, than any test or any data can show us.” More at

Saturday, Oct. 8

School candidate Ericka Ellis-Stewart: “We may want to look at limiting the number of trailers by schools so that we can have schools that are not underutilized and schools that are not overcrowded.” More at

Sunday, Oct. 9

School candidate Jeff Wise: “We’re not going to get good data from these tests. And I think there are better ways that we can assess students than standardized testing, especially if we’re going to use it to judge teachers, and that’s a different question.” More at

Monday, Oct. 10

School candidate Mary McCray: “There are communities that believe that they are their own separate school district…. It needs to be every community here in Charlotte that’s learning, because if every student is educated to their fullest, this makes for a better Charlotte, and right now what we’re doing is not making for a better Charlotte.” More at

Tuesday, Oct. 11

School candidate Lloyd Scher: “The Bright Beginnings program has proven that it is a valuable resource to educate our children. It puts children ahead of schedule in many ways. Children who don’t get it at home get it through the Bright Beginnings, and that’s the important aspect of that program…. If there’s a possibility we could expand it to include more kid, I would.” More at

Wednesday, Oct. 12

School candidate Hans Plotseneder: “Our big problem in the classsroom is lack of motivation…. I had a student … 16, wanted to drop out…. ‘Why do I need to learn Shakespeare? Why do I need to learn calculus? I am going to take over the garage from my grandfather. I have worked for him and with him since the age of 9.’ We are not doing anything for these students.” More at

Thursday, Oct. 13

School candidate Tim Morgan: “I represent District 6… have people who tell me Tim, we feel like we are a training ground for principals….I’m comfortable with that because some of the District 6 schools… are probably a little easier….If we can train them on what it means to be a principal…then move them into some of those tougher environments, everybody’s going to be more successful.” More at


Round 3

Friday, Oct. 14

School candidate Larry Bumgarner: “What will make my campaign successful? Choice. The fact that I’m offering choice, and the fact that I’m going to offer choice for people that they can actually take control of their children’s education and their future.” More at

Sunday, Oct. 16

School candidate Ken Nelson: “I think it’s up to the local community to decide the way they want to do things locally, and I don’t go for any of this national stuff that we have with the Bill Gates Foundation or the Broad program or anything like that. It’s up to Charlotte to do things Charlotte’s way.” More at

Monday, Oct. 17

School candidate Aaron Pomis: “We want to have a superintendent that’s going to reflect this idea of taking on the challenges that we have head-on, and who’s going to say hey, we have an academic achievement gap that we have to close. We have different educations for kids based on their ZIP code, based on the color of their skin, based on how much money their parents make….” More at

Tuesday, Oct. 18

School candidate Elyse Dashew: “In the ideal situation teachers go because they want to go. And if a teacher resents their job assignment, they’re not going to be as effective and they’re not going to stick around in the profession as long. So I would rather have the carrot approach rather than the stick approach.” More at

Wednesday, Oct. 19

School candidate Darrin Rankin: “We need to continue to have pre-K programs. That is critical…. We need to have the capacity there, based on past enrollment… but it should be open to everyone…. I would apply for grant money. I would also seek more money from the state. The state has money.” More at

Thursday, Oct. 20

School candidate Keith Hurley: “The large corporations that have helped and always supported CMS have been told, we don’t need your help anymore. We don’t need you anymore. Don’t try to help us anymore. And that’s why we’re partially in the situation we’re in today.” More at

Friday, Oct. 21

School candidate Ericka Ellis-Stewart: “I think we can use [students’] project-based and team-based work to see how well a teacher is performing – in addition to tests, or instead of tests, for particular subjects.” More at

Saturday, Oct. 22

School candidate Jeff Wise: “I don’t want to teach a kid to bubble in tests…. Can I give him a video camera and go say… I want to know why Alexander Hamilton wanted to create the Federal Reserve, what challenges did he have, script it… put it all together and give me a project back. To me that student has learned a whole lot more than showing that he knows some dates….” More at

Thursday, Oct. 27

School candidate Mary McCray: “We’ve got to get away from the drill and kill. You’ve got to get away from all of the workbooks because, I tell you, on the other side of town we do not use workbooks. We did not use them. Children were taught to think creatively. The only ancillary materials we used with our reading series was our writing materials.” More at

Friday, Oct. 28

School candidate Lloyd Scher: “The challenge is making sure that the public trusts the school board… and will understand that when we come out with an issue such as a bond referendum or a need for schools, that they understand that we’re doing it not because it’s going to benefit us – it doesn’t – but it’s going to benefit the students and teachers and the staff.” More at

Saturday, Oct. 29

School candidate Hans Plotseneder: “I’m at the point in my life where I don’t worry about my career. I have shown this in the last year by speaking up. I feel I need to give something to the community…. I believe I’m well equipped by having been 25-plus years in the business world… and at the same time having 11 years in the classroom…. No other candidate can provide this background.” More at

Sunday, Oct. 30

School candidate Tim Morgan: “I think our biggest challenge continues to be financial. We are hamstrumg financially regarding what we can and cannot do. Our teachers have not had raises in three years. They have had extremely difficult work environments for three years with the threat of layoffs…. Knock on wood, we’re going to be able to go this year and hopefully next year without a reduction in force, and I think that will go a long ways in improving employee morale.” More at

Round 3 concluded the postings of candidate quotes.