One of the areas Shelby Women for Progress has been most involved is with the local School Board. In 2022 we actively advocated for progressive school board candidates to be elected and re-elected, in an effort to keep a school board that is more reflective of our community. Our school board is partisan (Effective June 29, 2017), and research shows that when school boards are politicized, children stand to lose.
We are seeing children lose in Cleveland County with the closing of two Shelby elementary schools, Marion Elementary and Graham Elementary, at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
SW4P member, Jenni Hassler, has been a consistently staunch advocate of Board transparency, and through our collaboration with Down Home North Carolina completed Public School Strong training and is propelling local momentum forward.
Jenni has poured a TON of time into research about the closed schools, and put together the following information. You can find her original Facebook post here.
Learn more below and find easy ways for you to take action at the end of this post.
What’s happening with Marion and Graham Elementary Schools
“STOP THE SALE OF MARION AND GRAHAM ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS!
Last year, the Cleveland County Board of Education (BOE) voted to close two elementary schools in the Shelby Zone of the Cleveland County School District. This decision was based almost entirely on a facility study that the BOE ordered from an architecture firm in Charlotte. (This firm solely focused on the buildings and population growth, not student outcomes or best learning practices!) A couple months ago, the BOE voted to list those two elementary schools as surplus property, which means they are actively in the process of trying to sell the two schools.
I have heard from many, many parents and teachers that Shelby’s elementary schools are overcrowded and under-supported, so as a mom with a child set to attend one of these schools, I set out to find out as much as I could about this decision and the impact. I watched the facility study presentations, read over the reports, and pulled data from CCS website. I even called to track down Pre-K numbers at Elizabeth, which are not reported in the school enrollment data. The picture accompanying this post breaks down the data that I found (and I will put sources in the comments[of the original post]).
The numbers are concerning. The remaining elementary schools are already at or over target capacity. If the projections are accurate, or heaven forbid even underestimating the future enrollment, Shelby’s schools will struggle for at least the next decade to adequately serve our children. And then what? Will they build another school? Where? With what money?
BOE Chairman Robert Queen said “it’s cheaper to move a line on a map” because there are “3000 open seats across the district.”
Those seats are in elementary schools far from the Shelby Zone. Let this serve as a warning if you are thinking, ‘I’m not in that zone, this doesn’t affect me.’ Kings Mountain Zone has specifically been discussed in recent meetings regarding the intermediate school model and overcrowding at Bethware.
So what can you do?
We need to demand accountability from the BOE, and we can start with a community forum to address the restructure, as a standard board meeting can be limited to five public comments and the board is not obligated to respond. In the comments below [the original post] I will include a list of email addresses and a form email that you can send to the BOE and the superintendent. I will also list future BOE meetings that you can attend and make public comment requesting transparency regarding future plans, or just to show your support by being there.
This affects our entire community, regardless of your connection to CCS. How do we attract business and commerce when people with children won’t want to move here because of our school system? How do we encourage our young people to come back and keep our county vibrant? How do we raise children or see our community’s children grow and learn in schools without classroom space?
Please contact the BOE, thank you for reading, and please share this message!”
Resources and Research
Target Capacities and 10-Year Projections
Note: 152 Pre-K students in the zone are not included in the 10-year-projection, but this is listed as a bullet point.
Note: This data does not include Pre-K students. I was only able to confirm the enrollment of 128 students at Elizabeth for the 2022-2023 school year.
Email the School Board and Request a Community Forum
Here is a list of emails for the current school board
- Robert Queen: email@example.com
- Joel Shores: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Danny Blanton: email@example.com
- Rodney Fitch: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ron Humphries: email@example.com
- Greg Taylor: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ronnie Grigg: email@example.com
- Aaron Bridges: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Walter Spurling: email@example.com
You can also email the whole board at once using firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Template You Can Use and Expand On
Dear Members of the Board of Education and Superintendent Fisher, I am writing to you today to request a community forum be held regarding the closure and sale of two of our district’s elementary schools. Cleveland County residents deserve transparency about the factors going into this decision. Our students deserve to learn in a school that is set up for success. Parents deserve the opportunity to have their concerns heard and addressed. The available data does not match up with the plan to sell our schools and we want accountability. Please act today to make this forum happen. Thank you. Sincerely,
Attend a School Board Meeting
Upcoming meetings that are open to the public
- July 24 6:00 PM
- August 14 6:00 PM
- September 11 6:00 PM
Unless otherwise posted, regular meetings are held in the Board room at the Cleveland County Schools Central Services building at 400 W. Marion Street in Shelby, North Carolina. [Source]