Charlotte EAST Matters – An Interview with Carol Sawyer, District 4 CMS School Board Rep about East Side Issues

Carol Sawyer is the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board’s new District 4 member, and she represents many of Charlotte’s East side neighborhoods. Although she is new to serving on the Board, she is a seasoned veteran of School Board meetings and deliberations. Her website offers an exhaustive list of contributions to CMS  including long-term volunteer commitments in classrooms; advocacy for school improvements; service on the CMS Equity Committee (now disbanded); and championing moves to reduce high concentrations of poverty in our schools. Her daughter attended Charlotte public schools, and Carol was a frequent attender at CMS Board or Policy Committee meetings. Now Carol serves on the Policy Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Ruby Jones, who represents the remainder of the East side’s neighborhoods.

When I asked Carol how East side residents can help her achieve her goals, she asserted that “we have to do it neighborhood by neighborhood.” She points to some wonderful East side success stories: Idlewild Elementary being named as best magnet school nationwide, and the high payoff of parent involvement at Shamrock and Oakhurst Elementary schools. She is excited about the new K-8 school coming to the former Eastland Mall site, which will open with K-1 magnet students in a Dual Language program she believes will be popular.

Carol believes that “neighborhoods own their schools,” Each of us has an elementary, middle, and high school that serve us. Whether or not you’ve got children in schools, you strengthen your neighborhood by strengthening your schools. She was ready with a list of ways to engage: Be a tutor; be another pair of hands in the classroom; offer paid internships through your work; volunteer in career development programs; be a mentor; help students network; help staff network to find community partners and sponsors. Sometimes it’s the simple impromptu things that matter: at school events, “notice that your teachers need a break,” said Carol. “Pair that with the fact that attendees at school function often welcome a task as a way to make a contribution. Be that person who matches attendees with teachers you can relieve.”

Carol has said: “We talk a lot about closing the achievement gap in CMS…equally important, we need to raise the floor and lift the ceiling of student achievement. So it’s not just about closing the gap, it’s about elevating all students.” She wants to be an accessible representative and encourages residents to register for her eNewsletter. She maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts:  @Sawyer4Schools and can be reached at:carole.sawyer@cms.k12.nc.us, or 980-292-0554.

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