Cms Reassignment

Student assignment is the big topic hanging over Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

While students and teachers are busy in the classroom, starting Aug. 29, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board will face two issues that will determine the future of the district.

The board has contracted with the Alves Educational Consultants Group to help them conduct a comprehensive student assignment review. The CMS website says it is board policy to conduct a review every six years to ensure that student assignment adheres to the system’s guiding principals.

This year, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, the second largest system in N.C., will consist of 168 schools filled with 147,000 students. The system will be operating with a $1.38 billion budget with money coming through a mix of federal, state and local funds.

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The new student reassignment plan is set to go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year. This month the board is wrapping up the first round of community engagement meetings designed to gather public input as part of the reassignment process.

To keep up with what’s happening around student assignment go to http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/cmsdepartments/StudentPlacement/PlanningServices/20172018StuAsgnReview/Pages/default.aspx

The board also is looking for a new superintendent.

Superintendent Ann Clark’s contract runs through July of 2017. The board has hired the search firm of McPherson and Jacobsen to help navigate the process. For more information about the superintendent search, go to http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/boe/superintendentsearch/Pages/default.aspx

As this school year moves on, board members will have to decide whether to ask for a school bond package to be added to the 2017 ballot. Also, the seats of six district members from the nine-member board will be up to re-election in 2017.

Those board members will have to decide if they wish to serve another four-year term. If so, they will also likely be campaigning for much of 2017.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools by the numbers

As the second largest school system in the state behind only Wake County, CMS operates on a grand scale. Consider these statistics from the 2015-2016 school year courtesy of the CMS website:

▪ The district reported 18,495 employees on its rolls -- 11,356 of those teacher and support staff.

▪ 35,806 volunteers gave of their time to schools across the district.

▪ 1,027 school buses traveled a total of 107,000 miles each day.

▪ School cafeterias were kept busy serving 30,000 breakfasts, 94,000 lunches, and 8,500 after school snacks each school day.

▪ Students in the district represented 158 countries, speaking 175 languages.

Want to know more facts or keep up with current school happenings? Visit www.cms.k12.nc.us or check out the district’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CharMeckSchools

Of the many powerful Martin Luther King quotes, one of my favorites is “a right delayed is a right denied.” A group of parents would like the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board to delay a vote on the district’s new student assignment plan until November. If that step toward progress is delayed, I believe it will be a step toward progress denied.

This current board and staff has spent the past two years working on a plan that would reduce the concentrated poverty that has amassed over the past two decades while assigning students to options near home. In the minds of some, the proposal does not go far enough, while for others the proposed change has a shock value that is outside the realm of their imagination.

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As a parent, I have friends and acquaintances who likely fall under each umbrella. I will make a request of both sides: Ask questions of board members, talk with your similarly assigned neighbors, discuss ideas and opportunities as well as concerns around your assigned schools. But ultimately, support the work that has been done and allow those who have done the work to make the vote.

No, this is no silver bullet. But alas, it has never been about finding such a thing. It has been about using all of our available ammunition to combat the systemic discrepancies in opportunity that permeate our community. Those discrepancies led to developing an Opportunity Task Force and discussion forums at churches, museums, businesses and neighborhood meetings around the community.

This fall, following demonstrations and outpouring of energy that was unfamiliar to Charlotte, we had leaders in the business, civic and faith communities signing a statement that included a commitment to create change in systems and structures. They acknowledged that the change required will not be easy or comfortable but agreed to be committed to the continuous work of building and being a community of justice, equity, fairness and opportunity for all. Our time to fulfill that commitment has come.

Student assignment is not designed to cure all of our societal ills. However, when supported by the intentional development of affordable housing and public support of a well-designed bond, it can be a piece of a multifaceted approach to reversing the two-decade trend of our city’s soul bleeding out.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that we were due for a student assignment review on the heels of a national study ranking Mecklenburg County 99th out of 100 counties in economic mobility. Three of the five factors in that ranking were residential segregation, school quality, and access to social capital – a sophisticated way of saying “who you know.” Be clear, our residential segregation is directly related to our schools. Our school quality is most adversely impacted by our most hyper-segregated schools of high need, and peer connections are one of the most influential forms of social capital that we experience growing up.

Charlotte is a city of abundance that often operates as a community of scarcity. In the end, whether physically or spiritually, we often starve each other. In 12-step recovery, there is a saying that in order to keep it, you have to be willing to give it away. If we want a sustainable, secure Charlotte, we will need to relinquish some of our instincts of constant control. And we need to start doing so now. Progress should not be delayed.

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