Requiems and postmortems are usually reserved for the dead. In this case, the demise of our Clover District No. 2 high school hasn’t occurred, but it likely will happen during 15 to 20 years.
On March 22, the residents of Clover School District made the demise likely by action and inaction related to the Clover school bond referendum. Only 19.1 percent of the registered voters in the district voted. Less than one in five voters cared enough about the future of their schools to go to the polls. As a result, a minority of the voters determined the result.
Background• There are 16 voting precincts in the Clover School District. Nine – Bethel No. 1, Bethel 2, Bethel School, Lakeshore, Allison Creek, Mill Creek, Pole Branch, Wylie and New Home – are east of Paraham Road extended north to the state line. This seems to be an unofficial “dividing line” between the Clover and Lake Wylie communities. These nine precincts can be said to make up Lake Wylie. The remaining seven precincts – Bethany, Bowling Green, Clover No. 1, Clover No. 2, Cotton Belt, Filbert, and Smyrna – can be said to make up Clover.
• The district contains about 155 square miles. About 101 square miles are west of the dividing line in Clover, and about 54 square miles are east in Lake Wylie. Clover makes up about two-thirds of the district geographically, and Lake Wylie about one-third. The town of Clover occupies more than 5 square miles, or 3 percent of the district. The other 97 percent of the district is unincorporated.
• Clover is a town with history, families who have been there for generations and an agricultural feel. Lake Wylie is relatively new, mostly within the past 40 years. Lake Wylie is centered on two major highways and is primarily suburban. A substantial portion of Lake Wylie’s population is employed in Charlotte.
• At the time of the referendum, there were 24,245 registered voters in the school district. 9,545 (39.4 percent) were in the Clover precincts, while 14,700 (60.6 percent) were in the Lake Wylie precincts. The 2010 U.S. Census shows a population of about 34,000 in the sub-blocks of the school district. Lake Wylie grew about 7.7 percent per year from 2001-2010, while Clover grew about 1.6 percent per year. Lake Wylie is growing nearly five times as rapidly as Clover. While the geography of the district is 65 percent in Clover and 35 percent in Lake Wylie, the population, voter registration and growth are concentrated in Lake Wylie.
• Despite this 60/40 Lake Wylie to Clover population ratio, lack of redistricting for 20 years has resulted in a 70/30 Clover to Lake Wylie ratio on the school board. Five (71 percent) of the board members are Clover oriented (Mack McCarter, Joe Gordon, Liz Johnson, Franklin Pendleton and Rob Wallace), while two (29 percent) (Sherri Ciurlik and Melanie Wilson) could be said to be Lake Wylie oriented, although their actions belie that designation. A recent redistricting under threat of a potential lawsuit from outside the state did little to correct the imbalance, and nothing as related to the referendum.
What happened• There were 4,658 votes cast; 314 votes, including 282 absentee ballots, were not identified by precincts. Of the 4,344 votes with precinct identification, 1,528 (35.2 percent) were cast in Clover, while 2,816 (64.8 percent) were cast in Lake Wylie.
• Of the votes cast in Clover, 97.25 percent (1,486) were cast in Bethany, Bowling Green, Clover No. 1 and Clover No. 2 with 1,132 (76.2 percent) in favor and 354 (23.8 percent) opposed – a margin of 778 votes in favor of the referendum. 42 votes (2.75 percent) were cast in the precincts of Cotton Belt (0 votes), Filbert (31) and Smyrna (11).
• Of the 2,816 votes cast in the nine Lake Wylie precincts, 1,300 (46.2 percent) favored the referendum while 1,516 (53.8 percent) opposed – a margin of 216 votes against the referendum.
• In the nine Lake Wylie precincts (64.8 percent of the voters), the referendum was rejected. The four precincts in Clover (34.2 percent of the voters) approved the referendum by 76.2 percent.
• Two precincts – Clover No. 1 and Clover No. 2 – cast 1,013 votes of which 766 were in favor and 247 opposed. This margin of 519 votes (75.6 percent to 24.4 percent) was sufficient to carry the referendum. Thus, two precincts representing less than 25 percent of the total voters determined the result of the referendum over the precincts representing 65 percent of the voters.
• Clover School District No. 2 reportedly has 18 work sites with 1,090 employees as of March 31. 274 (25.1 percent) were employed in three sites in Lake Wylie. The remaining 816 (74.9 percent) were employed in the 15 Clover sites, likely contributing to the margin in favor.
Does anybody believe the referendum result was based on what is best for our children?
Don Long is a Lake Wylie resident.