Kaye McGarry, vice chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, didn’t have much time to sip from her drink Thursday morning at Summit Coffee. She was too busy taking notes as a crowd gathered to talk to her.
“This was 99 percent about Hough High,” she said, as she wrapped up two hours of meeting with a steady stream of constituents. Ms. McGarry was in Davidson as part of her regular “about town” visits throughout the county. She told DavidsonNews.net that she has been holding coffee hours since 2007, and today’s session ranks among her top three in terms of attendance.
The hot topic that brought people out on a drizzly morning was the naming of the new high school in Cornelius. Ms. McGarry was among the 7-1 majority who voted at the school board’s November meeting to approve the CMS naming committee’s top choice of W.A. Hough High. (See Nov. 11, 2009, “It’s official: School on Bailey Road is ‘Hough High’”) The name honors a former principal of North Mecklenburg High School, who successfully oversaw integration of high school students in this area in the 1960s and 70s.
Since the board vote, some have voiced fears that the name will be mispronounced in offensive ways. Ms McGarry said all but two of the people who came to see her at Summit want the Hough name to go.
When asked if she would be willing to revisit the issue at the December board meeting, she said that, as an at-large member of the board, she would look to the representative for the affected district. That would be Rhonda Lennon, who will begin her work as the newly-elected District 1 representative at the Dec. 8 school board meeting. District 1 covers the northern side of the county, including Davidson.
“In a situation like this I go to my district person,” Ms. McGarry said. “They are closer to the situation.”
She stressed to the crowd at Summit that she had seconded the motion by Larry Gauvreau, the outgoing District 1 board member, to delay a decision on the name for the new school. The motion failed, and Ms. McGarry voted with the majority to approve the name of W.A. Hough High. She implied that she would be in favor of more discussion about name alternatives, but admitted there was no precedent that she knew of for setting up a second school naming committee.
Also during the coffee hour, Ms. McGarry said she heard concerns voiced about how the CMS naming committee was formed and publicized, and about how the three final names were select
ed by the naming committee. Ms. McGarry said she would not feel comfortable revisiting the vote strictly because of how the name Hough might be pronounced, but she would be willing to look at the naming process.
“My job is to make sure the process is followed,” she said. “I have to look at the policies and, in the end, my job is to make a decision. ”