Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board 2023


This questionnaire was put together and distributed by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders coalition. The goal of the questionnaire is to learn about school board candidates’ interest in working to help make CMS a clean energy school system. CMCL recognizes that candidates are not running for the CMS Board with their highest priority being clean energy and climate change. CMCL wants to make candidates aware of this critical issue and hopefully see that candidates plan to give some recognition to its importance.

Question #1: Do you recognize that we are facing a climate crisis and, as a CMS Board member, will you see that CMS recognizes its responsibility do its part to help address this crisis?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: Yes, I do believe the world itself is facing climate crisis.  As a board member, there are several options at the board’s disposal to address the issue.  With the local board of education being a governing body, there is the potential to consult with subject matter experts on climate issues.  Also, the board has an opportunity to begin an initiative to create a more “green” environment. 

Brian Kasher: Yes.  I was the initial author of the CMS Board of Education Policy on Environmental Policy and with Jennifer Roberts spoke at the first solar panels put on a CMS school at Metro School.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes, because addressing the climate crisis is core to community values and affects student outcomes.

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: yes

Question #2: 100% clean energy creates cleaner air and a healthier environment for everyone, but is especially important for low income students of color.  African-American children are twice as likely to have asthma as white children and nearly 1 in 10 Latinx children suffer from asthma.  Do you believe that bringing clean energy and clean air to our CMS students is an important equity issue?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: Clean energy and clean air are a part of a larger issue within the district.  It is important for the district to consult with environmentalists as they are looking to improve the facilities. 

Brian Kasher: Yes. I authored an international peer reviewed scientific article and presented at the International Society on Indoor air Quality on the absence of ventilation in schools and studied it extensively in CMS Classrooms.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes.

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: yes

Question #3: CMS does not have anyone on staff who is specifically responsible for building a clean energy program for CMS. Would you support the hiring of a CMS executive or an outside consultant who would be responsible for researching and evaluating clean energy programs currently in use in some school systems in the U.S., reviewing financing options and public/private partnerships and who would be responsible for proposing, planning and executing a clean energy program for CMS?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: There are provisions in NCGA Statute 115C that allows for the district to use the services of subject matter experts if it will increase student outcomes.  The board has a responsibility to use all powers and resources available to ensure our students are successful. 

Brian Kasher: Yes and no.  I do support the concept of researching and evaluating clean energy programs currently in use in some school systems in the U.S., reviewing financing options and public/private partnerships and who would be responsible for proposing, planning and executing a clean energy program for CMS. However, I think this task can be accomplished successfully in a public-private partnership that would not result in money being taken from the classroom other current function.  I am familiar with a number of major organizations that might interested in partnering in such a study answerable to the existing CMS Energy  Management.  This sounds to me like sources of grant funding should be put on the grant office’s radar! CMS is not a general research agency, but has the footprint and organization to be the focus of very substantial research in the area of clean fuels.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes. Such would be included in facilties and even equipment for clean air buses et cetera.

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: Yes

Question #4: A significant portion of CMS funding comes from the Mecklenburg County Commission and the CMS Board has had to struggle to get sufficient funding for standard needs.  Would you support including funding for clean energy in the overall funding request to the County, recognizing that this should be included as an important need for our schools?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: To my statement in question 3, if CMS is uses the expert guidance of an environmentalist, there may not be a need for additional funding as the consultant could provide the district with alternative methods to supply cleaner air in the schools. 

Brian Kasher: Yes.  But I am not convinced it meets procurement requirements.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes. Again, such would be included in facilities.

Liz Monterrey: Yes - and I'd back seeking clean energy funding from the County only once our basic needs are fully funded.

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: Yes, climate change is a global issue, and many have sought to ignore it, And as we know, goal and gas are the largest contributor of global climate change. We all must become a part of the solution. 

Question #5: In this year’s election, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a $2.5 billion bond referendum for CMS. The 30 projects in the bond request cover our highest-need capital projects, but clean energy is not addressed, including the use of solar panels. Should these capital projects include the use of cleaner energy?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: This would be a conversation for SI Hill and her staff and not the local board of education. As there is a bond committee that oversees the spending of the bond, it would serve best to have the expert provide their suggestion and submission to Dr. Hill and her staff as they will have immediate oversight of the plans, building, and structures therein.  

Brian Kasher: The Bond should be put off one year and increased.  This bond was developed under the worst leadership conditions at CMS ever.   Who’s leadership vison is this Bond package: Superintendent Wilcox, Superintendent Winston, Interim Superintendent Hattabaugh, or Superintendent Hill?  I say need to have Dr.  Hill get acquainted with the District, feel out the role of Superintendent and revisit the Bond next year with enhanced energy, safety and a deeper mix of renovation/repair projects.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes, and can considerably viably economically so. 

Liz Monterrey: Yes - I would advocate for the use of solar panels.

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: Yes, but I am not on board for the 2.5-billion-dollar  bond at this time. Our most vulnerable citizens have faced increased housing costs and recent property reevaluations. The state‘s recent approval of private school vouchers gives more unhappy parents options to remove their children from public schools. The district has so many issues to address, and yes, we need school building renovations and possibly new schools. However, I would argue that we wait to see the impact of some crucial changes in the state budget.

Question #6: Late last year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new program that will combat climate change and improve air quality in NYC schools. The construction of all new schools will be all-electric and the city will complete or initiate the conversion of 100 existing schools to all-electric heating by 2030. The elimination of gas equipment in CMS schools would allow CMS to use cleaner electric energy provided by Duke Energy in the future as the company moves to cleaner energy sources. Would you support a plan for CMS to stop purchasing gas equipment for our schools so that we are not committed to the long-term use of fossil fuels in CMS buildings?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: I believe as many of the companies in the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg area look to achieve Net0 by 2050, there will be a shift in the energy sources used.  

Brian Kasher: Yes. Anything we can do to reduce gas usage is a plus.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes, generally.

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: I am unable to respond to this question, without having all the facts. It sounds like a simple solution to address eliminating the use of gas and move to cleaner energy.

Question #7: Electric school buses are now available with financing programs that are becoming more affordable and with lower maintenance costs than gas powered buses.  Electric buses eliminate dirty exhaust fumes.  Do you support CMS transitioning to electric school buses?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: No response

Brian Kasher: Yes. I studied many buses that drivers and children were getting ill from exhaust and engine fumes.  The health benefits are undeniable.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes, and such can be subsidized or otherwise funded in part or whole through opportunities afforded by B Corporation certification and similar programs. 

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon:  I would need more fact around the purchase and upkeep to truthfully answer this question. I do agree with the importance of using cleaner energy. 

Question #8: Both the Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners have passed clean energy resolutions.  Would you support a clean energy resolution calling for CMS to strive to source 100% of its energy use in buildings from clean renewable energy by 2035 and to strive to have 100% of its school buses and fleet vehicles be electric by 2035, in keeping with the 2035 goals of Mecklenburg County?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: Recent data shows the current cost of an electric school bus and charging station equal approximately $420,000 vs its diesel counterpart of ~$100k. In order to use a fleet of electronic buses there would have to be a conversation with the Board of Education, County Commissioners, County Managers, and more to assess the total economic impact currently and in the future. 

Brian Kasher: Yes.  But I believe there are factors and barriers we need to work on in terms of state procurement to make it possible and not just another feel good program.  This may be fertile ground to be a statewide issue.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes. 

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: Yes

Question #9: Should CMS educate students about the climate crisis and support clean energy training classes for the students who will become the next generation of the green workforce?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES

Michael Johnson: Yes.

Brian Kasher: Yes. I was schooled on the carbon cycle when I did schoolwide brainstorming sessions of environmental stewardship and loved it! Further, CMS needs to develop programs to train kids to work in jobs that do not require a college degree. Shop class with building a solar panel and or installing them would be cool.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: Yes, our failing infrastructure demands such increased awareness and action. 

Liz Monterrey: Yes

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: Yes

Question #10: Have you personally done any professional or volunteer work in support of our environment and is there any other information that you would like to share with us?

Shamaiye Haynes: YES, the organization I work for honors the environment, believes in climate change, and looks for ways to create a safer environment.  I was a Co-chair for the Poor People’s Campaign and have worked with other groups such as Sol Nation.


Michael Johnson: No.  I have read on corporations’ pledge to decrease their carbon footprint.  They are looking to do by creating policies that will reduce their carbon footprint internally as well as requiring companies in which they contract with to do the same. Combined efforts will enable success. 

Brian Kasher: Here is my blog posted on the Obama White House Webpage calling for environmental stewardship in schools and government agencies.  I was a national K12 environmental stewardship guru who spoke all over our national as National USEPA Tools for Schools faculty training school boards and superintendents and speaking at their national associations.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: It has been core to my life's work as an Environmental Scientist. I generally describe myself as such because it  communicates best to the general public. However, my specialization and research entail wetland phyto/ bioremediation and ecology. As an Economist as well (my grad degree programs were interdisciplinary - MS  Agricultural Economics and Rural Development and PhD Energy and Environmental Systems and Economics), my research included explicit consideration of negative externalities regarding public valuation of natural resources and  education, both pedagogy and andragogy, for the Applied Physical Sciences. I have lent my expertise both  professionally, having been compensated, and volunteered quite often for various environmental organizations and  schools systems, including CMS and Guilford County Schools. My favorite way to volunteer my expertise is 

community gardening, planting trees, and horticulture and/or agriculture in general. I have also volunteered my  expertise in Econometrics to assist two Charlotte arbor based orgs to compose its financials for grant application and  other required formalities to maintain non profit benefts.

Liz Monterrey: n/a

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon: As a former elementary school counselor, clean energy and recycling was part of my classroom guidance lessons for whole class instruction. 

As a 501(c) 3 organization, we cannot endorse candidates, but we can inform you of where the candidates stand on issues that we think are important.

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