Students, parents speak out on Union Co. redistricting

Students, parents speak out on Union Co. redistricting


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 5:51 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 6:00 AM

MONROE, N.C. -- Nearly 50 people spoke out before the Union County School Board during the first public hearing on the controversial plan to redraw school boundaries.

The forum was held at the Monroe High School auditorium Thursday night.

Gigi Cunningham, a fifth grader at Newtown Elementary School received a standing ovation upon delivering the speech  she rehearsed with the help of big sister, Heather.

“I have a lot of friends,” read Gigi. “I will loose many many many friends,” she continued.

Gigi may be among an estimated 4800 students affected if the board decides redistricting is the way to tackle overcrowding in schools.

"She has Down Syndrome so she has got this great support network of kids who help her and love her, and that is going to be gone,” said her mother, Stacey.

Many who took the podium said that upon reviewing the facts and figures, the numbers just don’t add up.

Some are still upset the board rejected the county’s $3 million offer to purchase mobile classrooms.

“I’m hoping they will slow down and look at the proposal from county commissioners," said Stacey Cunningham.

"Do I think tonight speakers will make a difference. I don’t know, I think their mind is already made, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to speak out,” she said.

One speaker said, “the more educated knowledgeable we become, the more questionable this  redistricting becomes.”

Parent Chip Wardwell said he wanted to speak up for his 14-year-old son.

 “Moving my son around for the third time in the Union County Schools, he’s an emotional wreck. There are people making decisions about his future who don’t have his best interest in mind,” he said.

Wardwell urged board members to formalize an alternative plan that would look at the long-term.

“We are not forward thinking, there is never a proactive plan. We know growth is here, we know it is going to stay, but the solution is always redistricting,” he said.

Parent Phuong White could be heard telling the crowd, “stand-up for your rights.” She was escorted out of the auditorium for her outburst.

She garnered applause however, from the crowd, sympathetic of her situation.

"Are you going to take me to jail for speaking in a public arena?" she ask.

White says her children will be switching schools for the second time, if the reassignment plan is approved.

She was also upset because the board prevented White from finishing her speech when her time was up.

NBC Charlotte was told, individuals will be given three minutes to speak, while those representing an organized group get five minutes on the podium.

White called the actions of the district “divisive,” criticizing the board’s diseminating of information misleading.

“They are all lies, they just want to move the kids because at the end of the day its about money and control,” she said.

The board assured the public they will take their feedback into consideration when the plan is up for a vote in April.

The next forum is scheduled for 6 p.m., March 3, at Parkwood High School.