School board votes to close E.E. Waddell High School

By Tom Roussey - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tuesday night the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board voted to shut down 10 schools, expand other schools, and change boundaries.

In the most controversial vote of the night, the board voted 5-4 to shut down Waddell High school and give its building to Smith Language Academy.

That vote also means that Harding High will lose its math and science magnet program to Phillip O. Berry High, and Harding will become a partial neighborhood school instead of a full magnet school.  Harding will keep its IB program.

Both Harding and Waddell parents expressed disappointment after the vote.

The four members who voted not to shut down Waddell and make the change to Harding were Tom Tate, Joyce Waddell, Richard McElrath, and Trent Merchant.  Board chair Eric Davis, Joe White, Kaye McGarry, Rhonda Lennon, and Tim Morgan voted yes.

The school board also voted to make a host of other changes which are listed at the bottom of this article.

Not long after it began, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board meeting was disrupted Tuesday night when a group of people started chanting from inside the board chambers.

Several folks began chanting, "No justice, no peace," and were led out of the room by police officers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

At least two people were arrested during the meeting, including CMS parent Niksa Balbosa.  She shouted, "There is a bigger plan than public knows! Fight for your children! Fight!" as she was being taken, in handcuffs, into the elevator at the Board of Education.

Police tell us that Balbosa will be charged with disorderly conduct and she was being taken to the Mecklenburg County jail.  NAACP members told WBTV's Dedrick Russell that they were planning to bail Balbosa out.

Reporter Notebook: WBTV's Tom Roussey's blog during Tuesday night's meeting

The meeting interrupting lasted for several minutes.  When police escorted some of the chanters outside, the chants continued in the hall.

In the lobby, NAACP President Kojo Nantambu lead a group of protests in chanting, "Push Back the Date!" referring to their demand that the board not vote on a host of controversial measures Tuesday night.

A woman fell during the chanting and an ambulance was called to check out her injuries which appeared to be minor.  Its not clear how she fell.

There are 25 measures the board is scheduled to consider, which include school closures and other big changes.  A crowd of close to 500 showed up, including many who had to watch in the government center lobby and two overflow rooms.

Before the disruption, board member Joyce Waddell had tried to get the board to delay voting on all the measures.

"I am asking that this be delayed until the February meeting," Waddell said.

But Waddell's motion was shot down 7-2, with only board member Richard McElrath joining Waddell.

Here are the changes the board voted to make:

These are the schools that, except for one, will be closed by next school year:

  • Irwin Avenue Elementary (students would be sent to Dilworth or Ashley Park elementaries; IB Primary Years magnet program at Irwin goes away; the board originally planned to turn Irwin into CMS offices, but instead decided Tuesday night that the Villa Heights Learning Immersion/Talent Development program would move into the Irwin facility)
  • Lincoln Heights Elementary (Lincoln Heights students will go to Bruns Avenue Elementary)
  • Oakhurst Elementary (students will be sent to either Rama Road or Billingsville elementaries; Paideia magnet program at Oakhurst will close)
  • Pawtuckett Elementary School (Pawtuckett students will go to Whitewater Academy)
  • Davidson IB Middle (the IB program will be relocated to Alexander Middle)
  • John Taylor Williams Middle
  • Bishop Spaugh Community Academy (Middle School)
  • Wilson Middle School
  • Waddell High School (Smith Language Academy will move into Waddell's building and take the Waddell name)
  • Amay James Pre-Kindergarten (closing a pre-K does not require a board vote, so this closure was not voted on Tuesday night)
  • University Park Elementary (it will not shut down until the 2012-2013 school year; at that time its creative arts magnet will be combined with First Ward Elementary's creative arts magnet)

Here are some other changes the CMS board approved Tuesday night that will start next school year:

BOUNDARY CHANGES

  • Community House Middle students who live north of 485 will now go to South Charlotte Middle
  • Some Garinger High students will go to Cochrane Middle, which will eventually become a 6-12th grade school by 2014; Cochrane will not have sports but students will be allowed to play for Garinger
  • Some Nathaniel Alexander and Hornets Nest elementary students will now go to Winding Springs Elementary, which without its magnet will now become a neighborhood school
  • Students at Tuckaseegee Elementary School will go on to Whitewater Middle School
  • Students at Barringer Elementary will go on to Sedgefield Middle School
  • Students living in the Dilworth and Eastover elementary zones who formerly went to Bishop Spaugh Middle will now go to Alexander Graham Middle

NEW MAGNETS

  • Create a learning immersion/talent development partial magnet at Mallard Creek Elementary
  • Create a Primary Years International Baccalaureate (PYIB) partial magnet program at Blythe Elementary School
  • MAGNET THAT WILL MOVE

  • Harding High's math and science magnet program will move to Phillip O. Berry High; Harding will keep its IB program and no longer be a full magnet school -- some kids will be assigned to it as a neighborhood school
  • SCHOOLS THAT WILL BECOME K-8TH GRADE

    • Berryhill Elementary
    • Reid Park Elementary
    • Druid Hills Elementary
    • Byers Elementary
    • Ashley Park Elementary
    • Bruns Avenue Elementary
    • Thomasboro Elementary
    • Westerly Hills Elementary