More than two weeks after his daughter was accosted in a dark outside corridor, a frustrated father has gotten the lights turned on at North Mecklenburg High.
It required nagging a school board member and a top Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools official, who had to sort out the responsibilities of CMS and Duke Energy. They focused on replacing light bulbs, only to learn the real problem lay with a transformer that was being repaired Friday.
It seems like it's actually going to be fixed now. It's just frustrating, David Dworak said Friday, after sending an email headed How many CMS employees does it take to change a light bulb?
It sounds like a setup for a joke, he wrote, but the situation wasn't funny: On Jan. 10, Dworak's daughter, a North Meck sophomore, was pushed against a wall by a male student who grabbed her face, he said. She escaped and ran, crying, to the office. Neither she nor the school cameras could identify the assailant because the lights were out in the passageway and the incident happened before daybreak.
Dworak said the school's police officer told him the school was trying to get more than 50 light bulbs replaced on the sprawling Huntersville campus.
The next day, Dworak contacted Rhonda Lennon, who represents that area on the school board.
She got in touch with Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain, who responded that wheels are already in motion, but that it would take a few days because CMS had to coordinate with Duke Energy, which owns the lights.
On Wednesday, two weeks later, Dworak asked Lennon for an update. He hoped to go to Thursday's PTA meeting and celebrate a victory. He learned the order hadn't been placed until Wednesday morning, but CMS said the bulbs would be replaced Thursday morning.
When Dworak went to the meeting, the campus was dark. That's what prompted Friday's email to CMS officials, which he copied to the Observer.
I was saddened as I walked from my car on Thursday evening on the dark campus noticing none of the work had been completed and realizing that I failed my daughter by not even being able to resolve and provide a safe place for her to go to school every day, he wrote. How can we even attempt to improve the curriculum if we can't even keep them safe?
Dworak got replies from Chamberlain and interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh, who apologized and told him they'd solved the puzzle. Only four bulbs were burned out, Chamberlain said, and they were replaced. But the school parking lot was still going dark because a transformer that powered those lights was failing.
In the evening as the load from other users was increasing, banks of lighting would go out, Chamberlain reported. Duke Energy replaced the transformer with a more powerful one Friday and planned to do follow-up later in the day.
It shouldn't have been that hard for North Meck to get out of the dark, Lennon and Chamberlain agreed.
There appears to be a communication gap between our maintenance staff and Duke. I take personal responsibility for this, Chamberlain emailed Dworak. We will conduct a review of our process to keep this from happening again.