On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, Charlotte native Rev. Dr. Monty Witherspoon was elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Board of Education. Dr. Witherspoon is a newcomer to the CMS Board, blazing the trail as he took one of the top spots in a race of 14 candidates and came in with 12.4% of the vote. Witherspoon was elected alongside Liz Monterrey, who also came in with 12.4% of the vote, and incumbent Lenora Shipp, who led the vote with 14.75%.
Although Witherspoon is new to the CMS Board of Education, he is a lifelong proponent of learning. Having matriculated through the K-12 system and having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Zion’s chief institution, Livingstone College, a Master of Divinity from the Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center, and a Doctorate from Drew University, Dr. Witherspoon has long been in spaces that speak to and directly developed his passion for critical thinking and instruction. Dr. Witherspoon is an advocate for education reform and is a regular participant in conversations that deal with policy and education. In the community, he is a member of the Black Political Caucus and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.
Believing that opportunity and schooling should be accessible to all students, Dr. Witherspoon offered himself to the students, parents, and educators of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System in order to take an active part in helping each student to graduate high school either prepared to attend an institution of higher learning, or join the workforce “with a quality education in a safe learning environment regardless of their zip code.”
Inequity in the school system has long been a concern within the American model of education. Geographical location – which is often related to socio-economic status and/or culture - has since the beginning of time dictated the type of school students have attended, quality of textbooks, instruction received, funding offered, and opportunities available. Renowned civil rights activist and the president and founder of the National Action Network (NAN), Al Sharpton stated,
There's no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people.
Having heard about the disparities taking place in the school system and upon reflection regarding personal experience, Dr. Witherspoon ran on the platform of:
In addition to being a dedicated advocate for education, a husband, father, and community leader, Dr. Witherspoon is the pastor of the Steele Creek A.M.E. Zion Church seated squarely within Charlotte, NC. When asked about the intersection of education and ministry, Dr. Witherspoon stated,
I see my new role with the school board as an extension of my role as a pastor. I have been involved in the community and as an educational advocate for years. Now, I have a chance to serve on a new level as the voice for the kids in my congregation and their parents. I see this as a unique opportunity and a continuation of the work that I already do in conjunction with the Steele Creek congregation. Our church has helped with housing transitions, supported families that have clothing and school supply needs, adopted two schools, and coordinated with a local school guidance counselor to serve where and when needed.
In looking ahead, Dr. Witherspoon shared that the Church can start to get involved in three ways:
Witherspoon is to serve a four-year term and will be sworn in on December 12, 2023.
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