Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meet the District 6 dozen

The 12 people seeking appointment to the remaining two years on the District 6 school board seat will make their pitch to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board at 1 p.m. today.  Meanwhile,  here's what they said in their applications.

Update: Board Chair Ericka Ellis-Stewart, who said last week the board could discuss applicants and even select one today,  opened the meeting by saying that will happen at a second special meeting on Thursday.

This appointment will provide a gauge of how the current eight members feel about district representation.  The idea of districts is to give each geographic area of the sprawling county  --  in this case, the southern suburbs  --  a voice on the board,  even if that voice belongs to someone who might not appeal to voters countywide.  The registered voters of District 6 are 41 percent Republican,  30 percent unaffiliated and 29 percent Democratic.  They've repeatedly chosen Republican Bill James as their county commissioner in partisan elections,  where the District 6 Republican primary winner is considered the strong favorite.  They've also consistently selected Republicans in the nonpartisan school board elections.  Expect to hear Tim Morgan,  whose at-large election in November left the seat vacant,  and fellow Republican Rhonda Lennon argue that means the board should fill the vacancy with someone of similar politics and philosophy.

On the other hand,  Democrat Wilhelmenia Rembert brings extensive school board experience and has been elected countywide to the school board and county commissioners.  Democrats now hold five of the eight seats (District 6 will be the ninth, and former Chair Eric Davis is unaffiliated),  and Rembert's supporters will likely note she's a longtime resident and voter in that district.

Complicating the party question:  In November's at-large election,  the top three among District 6 voters were Republican Morgan,  unaffiliated Elyse Dashew and Democrat Ellis-Stewart,  according to the Swann Fellowship's post-election analysis.  Larry Bumgarner,  an unaffiliated voter who's applying for the seat,  came in sixth among the district's voters.

Another twist:  Hispanics represent a fast-growing minority in Mecklenburg County and its public schools,  but so far they've haven't sought school board seats.  Some in that community are eagerly watching Angelica Castaneda-Noorbakhsh,  who is active in Hispanic/Latino groups and has applied for the seat.  She would bring a missing voice  --  but it might not be the voice of District 6,  where only about 2 percent of registered voters say they're Hispanic.

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