Voters approve CMS school improvements

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comNovember 8, 2013 

— New classrooms and a new voice are coming to Steele Creek schools, following election day last week in Mecklenburg County.

Voters approved a $290 million school bond that includes almost $9 million for Olympic High School. Planned are 20 new classrooms, and upgrades to science labs and the school auditorium. The work should be complete by January 2017.

“All of these projects are important and will help us better educate our students,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said in a statement shortly after the election.

More than 112,000 votes decided the school bond issue, with more than 74 percent of voters in favor. Voter turnout was more than 17 percent.

The $290 million will be spent on 17 of the highest-priority needs for a district where two-thirds of its schools are more than 30 years old, and 78 of 160 total schools are more than 50 years old. Olympic was built in 1965.

Work continues at Olympic on improvements funded by a 2007 bond vote, aimed at athletic facilities. Olympic currently has more than 2,200 students in a format made up of five smaller schools.

Steele Creek will have a new representative to the Dist. 2 school board seat, too, as Thelma Byers-Bailey unseated incumbent Richard McElrath by taking more than 70 percent of the votes. Byers-Bailey won all 30 precincts in a contest that drew more than 12,000 votes.

McElrath served the past four years. Indecision on whether he’d run again, until after many supporters had sided with Byers Bailey, is a main reason for the disparity in votes, McElrath said.

“I blame myself,” he said. “I had some issues, some personal and some with the board about some of the things we were doing, to where I didn’t know what I wanted to do until it was too late.”

The middle school math teacher of 35 years said his main focuses on the board were to bring reading teachers to schools through eighth grade rather than just elementary grades, balancing demographics at schools and creating more internship opportunities for high school students.

“I think we did well in getting the board to focus on that,” he said.

Democrat LaWana Mayfield won all 22 precincts, including all of Steele Creek, to claim the Charlotte City Council Dist. 3 post. Mayfield won more than 77 percent of the vote, compared to less than 18 percent for Republican Eric Netter and 5 percent for Libertarian Travis Wheat.

Other local decisions include Patrick Cannon’s win against Edwin Peacock for mayor of Charlotte and four Democrats besting as many Republican opponents for at-large Charlotte City Council seats.

Cannon took 53 percent of more than 96,000 total votes. Democrats Michael Barnes, Vi Lyles, David Howard and Claire Fallon each scored more than 13 percent of the vote for City Council, while four Republicans and a Libertarian candidate failed to crack 12 percent.

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