The Real-World Work of Workforce Development


Workforce development: Aligning the needs and resources of K-12 schools, businesses, and community partners. It is easier said than done, but the 120 people in this photo are doing it.

Last week I participated in “Alignment SW Charlotte”, a summit that brought together educators from Olympic Community of Schools (a group of five high schools); their middle and elementary feeder schools; colleges; nonprofit and faith community partners; and businesses from Charlotte’s southwest corridor.

The summit was convened because of an urgent challenge. From 2008-2018, STEM jobs in the US are expected to increase by 17%. Most of those jobs will be filled by non-US workers. The US is expected to be short by as many as three million high-skills workers by 2018. (Source: National Math and Science Initiative)

Charlotte Works, the local workforce development board for Mecklenburg County, reports the following STEM job numbers for the Charlotte region:

  • 6,000 advanced manufacturing
  • 7, 000 energy
  • 10,000 health care
  • 11,000 logistics & distribution
  • 30,000 IT-related

It is difficult for businesses to find qualified local employees to hire for these positions.

Alignment SW Charlotte is a concrete, pragmatic, effective local response to the workforce development problem. In last week’s meeting, we worked together in breakout groups to help educators plan for the 2015-16 school year. Through work like this, community relationships are strengthened and real plans are put into place that result in children achieving their human and economic potential in today’s world.

The hard work and smart collaboration of the partners have already led to success, including national awards and the opening of a $200,000 Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Center at Olympic. See four pages of results from last year’s work here.

Kudos to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employee Mike Realon for spearheading Alignment SW Charlotte. Mike works at Olympic as the Career and Community Development Officer. Mike and I first met while serving together on the Career and College Readiness Task Force in 2012. We joined with other K-12 staff, community and business leaders and representatives of local community college and universities to recommend a coordinated plan for increasing career and college readiness in our CMS students. It is gratifying that many of our task force recommendations, including the creation of Alignment SW Charlotte, have been implemented. You can read the recommendations here (starting on page 74).

Alignment SW Charlotte, and the task force that led to it, are real-world examples of this pillar of my platform:

pillarThe good news continues to grow. The Olympic partnerships have been so successful that now North Mecklenburg High School and its feeder elementary and middle schools are beginning to replicate the model. With your support I will be serving on the school board, watching over and advocating for this important work. Stay tuned…


For more info:

And now to acknowledge a few partners participating in the work of  Alignment SW Charlotte:

AXA Advisors, BGW CPA PLLC, Black Belt World, Bosch Rexroth, Carolinas College of Health Sciences, Carolinas Healthcare System, Central Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Works, BASF, City of Charlotte, CPCC, CRVA, Cybertary, DecisionPathHR, Discovery Place, Drive Inc., Edward Jones, Environmental Process Solutions, Falcon Fastening Solutions Inc., Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, Habitat for Humanity Charlotte, Jackson Orthodontics, Judah Church, Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas, Lane Construction, Logo’d Gear, Marriott Courtyard Billy Graham, Mecklenburg PTA Council, NAF/NC New Schools | Breakthrough Learning, neteffect technologies, Siemens Energy, SkoolAide, Standard Pacific, Steele Creek Pediatric Dentistry, Steele Creek Printing & Design, Steele Creek Residents Association, Steele Creek YMCA, Sysco Charlotte, Truliant Federal Credit Union….and of course Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools!

How Crowded Are Our Schools?

Overcrowding thumbnail“My kids eat lunch at 10am and 2pm!” A mom shared this with me the other day about Collinswood Language Academy, which has so many students that the cafeteria is stretched beyond capacity; lunch is served in shifts throughout the school day. Unconventional lunchtimes are a common and yet often overlooked aspect of overcrowding in our schools.

Our schools are filled to the gills, and we keep growing. If you are a student, parent, or employee at a CMS school, chances are you have experienced a building that is at or above capacity. You may have personally witnessed the trailers, the packed hallways, perhaps even the students sitting on tables when teachers can’t squeeze enough desks into a classroom.

My four years on the CMS Bond Oversight Committee have given me a long, clear look at the overcrowding crisis.


Surprising statistics to share:

  • 78% of our schools are either totally full or more than full.
  • Another 11% are nearly full, at 90-99% capacity
  • That leaves only 11% of schools below 90% capacity.
  • Albemarle Road Elementary (trailers shown above), our most crowded school, has nearly twice as many students than its buildings are designed for. It’s at 198% capacity. You can see crowding data for all CMS schools here.
  • Charlotte is the second-fastest growing big city in the United States. Its population is expected to surge by 47% between 2010 and 2030.
  • As the population grows, so does the number of students we serve. Last year, we had 145,000 students. We anticipate 21,000 more students by 2024.
  • We currently rely on approximately 1100 mobile units (affectionately known as learning cottages…or trailers) for classrooms.
  • If we were to build enough classrooms to eliminate mobiles today, we’d need 15.5 new elementary schools, 4.8 new middle schools, and 2.4 new high schools.
  • Land is becoming more scarce and expensive. The cost of labor and materials is rising. The longer we wait to build new schools, the more it costs, and the fewer options we have for locations.

It’s a serious situation that we need to address soon.

There’s Good News Too

I consider myself a realistic optimist. The glass might not be half full, but at least it’s a quarter full.

The good news is that voters recognize the need for schools. For instance, the most recent school bond referendum in 2013 passed by record numbers. (I served on the steering committee, coordinating  parental involvement in the bond campaign.) Mecklenburg County requested $290 million for school capital projects, and it was overwhelmingly approved.

However, the amount requested and approved was too small for the need. As a comparison, Wake County – a slightly smaller school district – asked voters to approve $810 million in school bonds. Voters said yes.

The other good news is that we’re efficient when we build schools, especially compared to other North Carolina districts. The elementary schools built by CMS in 2014 averaged $159 per square foot; the average in the rest of the state was $199 per square foot. (Source: NC Department of Public Instruction School Clearinghouse

How to Fix This

You may know that CMS and the school board have no funding authority. It is the role of the county and our county commissioners to authorize the timing and the amounts of bond referendums. Once a bond referendum is on the ballot, it is up to the voters to say yes or no. The school district can only ask for what it needs, in hopes that the county and voters will respond to the request.

Are you concerned about overcrowding in our schools? Urge your school board members to plan for more classrooms. Support your county commissioners in approving a bond referendum to address the need for more schools. Then, encourage your fellow citizens to vote to pass the bond. It is up to all of us to make a strong case for building schools so that our children can focus on learning and our teachers can focus on teaching.

Overcrowding Infographic

Press Release for Filing Day


Education Advocate Elyse Dashew Files to Run for Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board At-Large Seat

CHARLOTTE (July 6, 2015)—Elyse Dashew made it official today, filing as an at-large candidate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board.

Dashew launched her campaign at an event June 19 that featured remarks by 2014 N.C. Teacher of the Year James Ford and roundtable discussions on topics such as teacher pay and technology in the classroom.

A resident of Charlotte since 1995, Dashew has two children in CMS. She is an education advocate who holds leadership positions with a number of education-related organizations, including the CMS Bond Oversight Committee, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School Friends, GenerationNation, and N.C. Parents Advocating for School Health.

“I’m running because our public schools are the foundation not only of individual students’ success, but the success and vitality of our entire community,” Dashew said. “CMS needs board members who can see the big picture – from teacher pay to infrastructure issues to student achievement. I’m confident that I can bring grounded leadership and solid vision to the school board.”

Dashew has already received endorsements from a number of prominent community leaders, including retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, OrthoCarolina CEO Dan Murrey, Allan Tate Companies President/COO Pat Riley, radio personality Sheri Lynch and former Charlotte City Council members Malachi Greene and Betty Chafin Rash.

To learn more about Dashew and her core values, visit

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Media Contact: Grey Newman, 704-609-3160

Ian Beveridge, Elyse Dashew and Emma Beveridge

Ian Beveridge, Elyse Dashew and Emma Beveridge



Press Release for Campaign Launch Event


Experienced Public Education Advocate Will Announce Campaign for Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board At-Large Seat

Charlotte, NC (June 18, 2015) — Elyse Dashew will be announcing her campaign for an at-large seat on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board at a launch event on Friday, June 19 at McClintock Middle School, 1925 Rama Road, Charlotte NC 28212. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and will include an introduction by 2014 North Carolina Teacher of the Year James Ford, as well as testimonials from student and civic leaders. Following the kickoff, there will be teacher roundtable discussions led by teacher facilitators to gather educator input on topics such as technology use in the classroom, support of first-year teachers, student discipline, and teacher pay.

Dashew, who is co-chair of the CMS Bond Oversight Committee, in addition to having leadership roles in several other education groups, believes she will bring clear and thoughtful leadership to the school board. “Our public schools are the best hope for building paths to success — but only if we can muster the community commitment, smart policy, funding, and political will to address our students’ needs,” said Dashew. With two children in CMS, she dedicates her skills and passion to strengthening local public schools through budget oversight, advising on policy, and building advocacy networks.

Dashew’s core values include:

• Improving teacher pay and pipeline
• Building new schools to relieve overcrowding and prepare for growth
• Addressing deferred maintenance for aging facilities
• Using research-based evidence to guide all school policies, including student assignment, curriculum and testing
• School board collaborating with family, business, faith,
philanthropic and other community and government partners to advocate effectively for all children.

The campaign launch event will end at 9:30 a.m. and will be followed by teacher roundtable discussions. There will be opportunities for interviews between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m. For more information about Elyse Dashew and her campaign, please visit or contact campaign manager Gray Newman, 704-609-3160.

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Elyse Dashew with her Children

Ian Beveridge, Elyse Dashew and Emma Beveridge



Elyse Dashew, CMS advocate, to run for School Board

Elyse Dashew for CMS School Board

We are thrilled to announce that Elyse Dashew is running for an at-large position on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board in 2015. The Committee to Elect Elyse Dashew is currently getting organized and Elyse has been busy meeting with many stakeholders around the district.

Elyse is currently the co-chair of the CMS Bond Oversight Committee and also has extensive knowledge of the CMS annual budgeting process. She has created, led, and collaborated on multiple civic engagement campaigns around public education policy issues, including a major effort to increase teacher pay. She worked to bring a full-time nurse to every school. Elyse is a board member of the youth leadership organization GenerationNation. She has served on numerous task forces, advisory committees, School Leadership Teams and education panels.

Elyse says, “All children are our children. Our public schools are the best hope for building paths to success – but only if we can muster the community commitment, smart policy, funding, and political will to address what our children need. I will bring clear and thoughtful leadership to our school board. Please join me in supporting our schools.”

Elyse Dashew has the energy, commitment and skills that we need on our school board. She is ready to tackle complex budget and policy challenges, is able to clearly communicate the issues, and will continue to build networks to collaborate on constructive solutions to our schools’ challenges.