CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The school board Tuesday elected new leaders and endorsed the superintendent s goals for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, laying the groundwork for a pivotal year ahead.

These goals are a glimpse into our future, one that we can create together, said member Eric Davis.

Members unanimously elected Democrat Mary McCray as chairwoman and Republican Tim Morgan as vice chairman, a move that could signal a more bipartisan approach to leading the district and working with other government bodies.

After the 2011 election, Democrats held a majority and chose two Democrats: Ericka Ellis-Stewart as chairwoman and McCray as vice chairwoman.

On Tuesday Ellis-Stewart nominated McCray to take her place. In a statement released as the meeting began, she said the chairmanship is time-consuming and she is ready to hand off to the new leaders.

I wish the new leadership well in their endeavors and will work with them as we continue to build a school district the community wants and deserves, Ellis-Stewart said.

CMS gets most of its money from the state, where Republicans control the legislature, and Mecklenburg County commissioners, where Democrats hold the majority.

The people are in place for CMS to finally be successful, said Lawrence Shaheen, a political consultant who works with Morgan.

Board members sounded themes of unity and partnership as they enthusiastically endorsed the goals Superintendent Heath Morrison presented to a crowd of almost 1,800 in November. His eight-point program calls for making CMS more successful by tailoring education to individual students, creating more public-school choices and connecting better with employees and the public.

(The goals) really embrace many of the things we are currently doing, but take it to the next level, said member Joyce Waddell.

Several members said the crowd at Morrison s announcement and the flood of people who want to serve on follow-up task forces signal an often-divided community is ready to work for better schools.

In January, 22 volunteer task forces will begin meeting to help shape specifics of CMS five-year plan. Morrison and the board will launch a series of special meetings and public forums, aiming to revise the district s strategic plan by August.

The timing of everything is awesome, member Rhonda Lennon said. We re getting ready to embark on a new year and we re getting ready to embark on a new direction, with our community as partners.

Also Tuesday, the board approved a $12.9 million contract to build a new elementary school in the Steele Creek community of southwest Mecklenburg County, opening in 2014. CMS is expected to resume planning for more construction and renovation in 2013.

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