Second Ward HS graduate not on board with $2.5B referendum that would build new Second Ward HS

Arthur Griffin says he has trust issues with the school district.
On Your Side Tonight with Jamie Boll
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 8:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District’s $2.5 Billion Bond Referendum is causing some concern from a former CMS Board chair and a current Mecklenburg County Commissioner.

Arthur Griffin says he has trust issues with the school district.

“Fool me once shame on you,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Arthur Griffin said. “Fool me twice - shame on me. And that’s not going to happen.”

Griffin has many concerns over the bond referendum. One is the property tax increase that is associated with the bond referendum. The other includes Second Ward High School - if the bond referendum passes CMS will spend about $175 million on a new Second Ward High School. That school was the first high school in Charlotte to open for Black students. Before - Black students had to travel elsewhere to get educated. CMS tore down Second Ward High School in the late 60′s during what was called Urban Renewal. The community was promised a new school but that never happened. Griffin graduated from Second Ward back in 1966. He was disappointed that the school was never rebuilt. Now CMS says through this bond referendum it wants to fulfill a promise, but Griffin is not on board with the referendum.

“I’m the last person in the world that would want to vote against Second Ward,” Griffin said. “That’s my lifeblood. But I can’t trust these folks with their lack of transparency and the drippings of detail month after month after month.”

Griffin says he had questions about CMS’ plans for Second Ward High School. His first concern centered around transparency. Griffin was bothered by the $175 million that was budgeted for the new high school also included building a new CMS Board of Education building on the same site. Griffin was worried voters didn’t know about CMS’ plan.

“Be transparent,” he said. “Be truthful with the public. If you want money for a Board of Education - say you want money for a Board of Education.”

We took that concern to CMS. Dennis LaCaria is the district’s Executive Director of Facilities, Planning and Real Estate. He says plans have changed and a new Board of Education will not be built on the same site at Second Ward High School.

“It is something that we have explored,” CMS Executive Director of Facilities, Planning and Real Estate Dennis LaCaria said. “And as we worked through feedback with the community, working on the program and sorts of things we don’t believe putting those offices there - so we are not putting the board offices on the site.”

Griffin’s other concern is space. He is concerned there will not be enough space to accommodate the estimated 2,000 students who may attend the new Second Ward High School which will be a county-wide magnet school. The school’s theme will concentrate on health and the medical fields.

“2,000 students on 4 ½ acres,” Griffin said. “Let common sense prevail.”

LaCaria says the school will be built near the land where Second Ward High School once sat in Uptown Charlotte. He says there will be enough room. CMS will have options to accommodate students and faculty.

“Well so you build up,” LaCaria said. “So, we are not talking about a suburban school - we’re downtown.”

LaCaria says there are no current rules about having a high school with several floors. He also says all 2,000 students will not be at the school at the same time.

“We are working with Atrium on a partnership with them and the medical school and the things they are doing,” he said. “So, our students will be in Atrium spaces, plus internships - other opportunities for asynchronous and job shadowing and training.”

LaCaria says the Second Ward High School project is special to the district.

“Our intent is to fulfill a promise that has been delayed...,”LaCaria said. “We are very, very excited to return this high school to its site.”

While CMS is excited - Griffin is still not convinced.

“It’s going to be hard for me to move forward,” Griffin said. “To be really excited about this project.”

If the referendum is approved, a new Second Ward High School could pop up within the next four years.

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