DAVIDSON – “Not just no,” one Davidson commissioner said in an off-the-record conversation after the town board's May 22 meeting, “but, well, you know the rest.”
That clearly summed up the board's unanimous response to an opportunity to seek legislative authority to operate a charter school. The decision came 15 days after Huntersville and Cornelius commissioners voted to join fellow Mecklenburg County towns Matthews and Mint Hill in pursuing the option to open town-owned charter schools provided in N.C. House Bill 514.
After public comments for and against participation, Davidson commissioners individually expressed support for public schools and reasons for not joining the HB 514 push.
“I'm opposed to us joining that legislation,” Commissioner Jane Campbell said, referencing limitations and uncertainties about how a town-owned school would operate and how it would be financed. She also said she had received an email from a town resident afraid that due to socio-economic reasons, opening a charter school “would create two Davidsons.”
Commissioner Jim Fuller took a more direct route to local hearts and minds.
“We have no business running a communications company,” he said referencing the lingering debate over the town's role as an ownership partner in Continuum, “and we have no business running a school.”
Fuller said he'd rather work to make public schools better and “not spend time chasing this unicorn.”
Commissioner Autumn Rierson Michael said she viewed the legislation “as a solution looking for a problem.” And Commissioner David Sitton said, “The (legislation) proposed seems half-drawn at best.”
Mayor Rusty Knox said for him the issue was using local school children as leverage in a political fight.
“To look at this as our kids as a political chip, it upsets me,” Knox said.
Commissioner Matthew Fort emphasized support for public schools but acknowledged he could see the reasons behind anxiety in other areas. “Whenever you talk about your children, I understand the passion.”
But Fort agreed Davidson had no reason to participate in the legislation.
“To me, it's like why are we even having this conversation?” he asked.