Educating voters about the CMS school board candidates

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Voters will head to the polls soon to decide on a new Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board.

Six seats are up for grabs and 19 people are trying to fill them. At least three of the seats will be filled by new people because three incumbents aren't running again.

Churches are now coming together to educate their congregations and communities on the school board races.

"Our biggest concern is that they don't know who the candidates are," forum organizer Mark Jerrell said. "They don't know what the board does, how the board impacts them. They just know they are dissatisfied."

Jerrell is helping churches put on school board forums. He believes that because so much attention is placed on the Charlotte Mayor's race voters have not researched the school board race.

"We really got to nail down certain issues with the community to make sure that we get the right people in office," Jerrell said.

Voters admit they are not up to speed on who's running for the school board.

"I haven't really thought about it that much," voter Pam Hacker said.

"I am not totally familiar with who the candidates are locally," another voter, Michael Alford, said.

The new school board is responsible for the education of nearly 150,000 students. The new board will have to tackle and address the achievement gap between black and white students, equity, school safety, and possibly a new student assignment plan.

Educators say voters must decide the right candidate because students are depending on them.

"What does it do to demean our children who are voiceless in these school?" United Voices of Education Seretha Sherrill said. "They are trapped in a school and a community that is called poor and a school that is non-performing. We are looking at those issues."

United Voices of Education is a group of retired educators. They are engaged in the process. Tuesday, the group endorsed six candidates for the school board. The group will be knocking on doors and going to churches to educate voters about putting the right candidate in office.

Sherrill says that is important and can make a difference.

"Our children do learn, they can learn, they want to learn," Sherrill said. "All we need to do is get the right programs in place in the right schools."

The new school board will be in office for the next four years. Advocates say a lot can happen during that time - and the fear is a lot may not happen.

"I think that's the biggest concern," Jerrell said. "Are we still going to be dealing with the same problems to equity - diversity?"

Voters who were uneducated about the school board race say they will read up on candidates before heading to the polls.

Early voting starts October 19 in Mecklenburg County and Election Day is November 7.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.