Home   |  Archive  |  Links  |  About This Project

 

 

 

Dec. 20, 2010 

Sunday's Observer editorial page began a two-week focus on citizen comments on "what would make CMS a great system."

The Dec. 19 articles are here at the Observer.

The Dec. 26 articles are here at the Observer.

Pictures of the pages are here.

If the links above are not working, the text is below.

 

 

 

 


Mike DeVaul

Senior Vice President, organizational advancement, YMCA of Greater Charlotte

Read in The Observer

 

"If it takes a village to raise a child, then why does it not take a community to educate one? In my view, a great public school system focuses on its core services and engages community partners to ensure that all students have goals beyond high school graduation. I believe that Success in school, work and life for any individual depends on a "network" of support (school, parents, mentors, extracurricular and enrichment opportunities) that nurtures his or her their potential.

"First, we need shared accountability for learning. At the Y, we are determined to make the best use of a child's out-of-school time with activities that develop character and social skills, provide academic support through tutoring and connect students to positive role models. By opening the doors of communication between schools, businesses and organizations like ours, we could all have a better understanding of each child's specific needs and challenges and would be better equipped to work with parents and teachers to have greater impact on academic performance.
Second, I believe that greater emphasis on kindergarten readiness and post-graduation vocational study could significantly increase our kids' success rate. Could public and private business work together to re-invent the education system to one that started in pre-kindergarten and supported kids through age 20?

"We also need to nurture strong parental support. Not by judging their abilities or intentions but by providing true supportive help. We have adults in our community whothat have felt disenfranchised by a public school system since their youth. Lacking the chance to connect to their own education as children, they have greater difficulty connecting now. The school system needs more volunteers to help foster and strengthen good parental navigation skills. Most of our challenge lies in some parental inability to understand the system. Instituting a parent mentoring program in our community could utilize parents with good navigation skills to help their neighbors make better decisions for their children. We stand ready to assist.

"Lastly, as part of a cause-driven nonprofit that believes structured, enrichment activities truly help children learn, grow and thrive, I believe that every child should have access to out-of-school programs such as swimming, creative arts, dance, team sports, after-school programs and camp. Again, through collaboration with schools, businesses and organizations like the Y, and with the support of citizens who give their volunteer time and resources, we can provide year-round and lifelong structure and support that every child needs to succeed.

"The YMCA has been working in concert with our National Office for several months re-engineering our programs the better support educational outcomes. We stand ready to be an even stronger ally with our schools and others. We are better together, it takes a community to educate a child!"

 

 


Ericka Ellis-Stewart

Parent, civic activist

Read in The Observer

 

"A great public school system is one that is focused with laser-like precision on the business of educating children. It is a system where in which our community can rest assured that all children will have the opportunity to live up to their potential regardless of their geography, race, or socio-economic status. Simply put, each student has the opportunity to interact with and learn from a highly qualified teacher every day.

"A great public school system is one that is ripe with options that allow students to flourish academically, socially, and emotionally. It provides a plethora of opportunities for traditional and specialized learning that are geared towards challenging young minds to become critical thinkers and the leaders of tomorrow. Its daily goal is to change the life of a child for the better at every intersection.

"A great public school system creates a culture and environment of dedication and passion for teaching. The evidence of Learning is palpable in every corner of the schoolhouse. Teachers make learning come alive inside of the classroom. Principals are inspirational leaders and change agents. Parents are involved and highly visible. Educators are leaders in innovation who are valued and compensated for the contributions they make. Teachers no longer have to beg for reams of paper and hand sanitizer, or teach all day without a planning period.

"In a great public school system, all schools throughout the district produce academically successful and globally competitive students who are prepared to enter college or the workforce upon graduation. Every school becomes a place where teachers want to teach and students learn. With the effective use of technology, learning is made applicable and relevant to real-world issues. Throughout the district, There is a strategic focus on recruiting, developing, and retaining dynamic and skilled educators. Each classroom has a qualified, and capable , and experienced teacher.

"In a great public school system, each child has a strong foundation in reading, writing, mathematics, and science. All students are bi-lingual; fluent in English and at least one foreign language before entering high school. Music, arts education, and physical activity are no longer spare parts, but key components of the school day. The Educating of our children becomes about more than teaching to the test. It becomes focused on a child's growth, learning and development. School calendars are no longer tied to our agrarian roots and limited to only 180 days. School days are extended to provide children with more instructional time, if necessary. Achievement gaps become non-existent, and graduation rates soar, and no child is left behind.

"In a great public school system, as a community, we commit our resources equitably and efficiently to ensure that all children become well educated, productive citizens. We are no longer satisfied with mediocrity or status quo. We demand continuous improvement and expect nothing less than overwhelming excellence. We must put children first and set aside our political and philosophical differences to become "the village" that it takes to educate every child in our community."

 

 


Amy Farrell

Executive Director, Kids Voting Mecklenburg

Read in The Observer

 

"Imagine we are in the year 2020. Over the past decade, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has become widely regarded - in our community, state and nation - as a truly great school system. Charlotte residents are proud of CMS. Parents are moving to Mecklenburg County to enroll their students in CMS. What made CMS great? How did we get here?

"In 2010, CMS faced significant challenges due to the economy, public perception and other factors. Teachers: unhappy. Students: discouraged. Parents: uninvolved. Politics: ugly. Between 2011 and where we are today, in 2020, that changed. What made the difference? Getting the students involved in determining the success, and future, of their schools and community. The steps were simple, and transformational:

"Civic learning was restored as an essential CMS priority. Instead of focusing only on math, reading and science with just a touch of civics, government and history in 10th and 11th grades, students were given dedicated time, resources and learning opportunities to begin the civic learning process in kindergarten and continue it through graduation. We understood that just as we must learn to read, write, add and subtract, we must learn how our governments and communities work, the roles of leaders and citizens, and the impacts of policies and decisions. That knowledge built interest, commitment and trust.

"Ownership of CMS and its future was shared with all students. Smart people recognized that all students have the po tential to be leaders, and gave them good opportunities to develop and practice their skills at school and in the community. It was clear that students cared and wanted to make a difference. They helped to evaluate teachers and give them thoughtful suggestions. They met with school and city leaders to make decisions and share ideas and solutions. They watched out for and encouraged one another, making sure that the class that entered 9th grade was the same class that graduated four years later.

"Students were given a permanent seat at the table. Having teens, even as unelected advisors, sitting alongside elected officials on dais during school board, county commission and City Council meetings kept the focus on students and the future. It gave young subject experts a chance to weigh in on the decisions affecting them. It significantly increased the quality and tenor of the political dialogue, which became civil and productive.

"So what happened in 2011 that kicked off this change? As a community, we struggled with scarce resources and difficult decisions. Then, it dawned on us. We had the resource the entire time: our students."

 

 

 


Pamela Grundy

President, Shamrock Gardens PTA

Read in The Observer

 

"Marker-wielding kindergartners cover the Shamrock Gardens Elementary stage, intently coloring a set of circus posters. They work in clusters, some kneeling, some sprawled flat on their stomachs, chattering happily as they fill the space between the lines with bright and varied hues. Their faces vary too, ranging from palest white to deepest brown.

"Below the stage, parents and teachers sit amid the remains of a spaghetti dinner, going over learning games that families can play at home. They talk as well, exchanging smiles and stories.

"Our families have come to Shamrock Gardens by many different paths. Some of us have lived in Charlotte all our lives; others have traveled farther - from Minnesota, California and New York, from Africa and Mexico and Vietnam.
We also come from different neighborhoods - from the working-class enclaves of Plaza-Shamrock and the Park Apartments, as well as from the tonier settings of Plaza-Midwood and Country Club Heights.

"But our children are all learning together. And by working to support them, we are creating a new community at the intersec tion of our differences.

"In my ideal school system, events like our kindergarten dinner would take place all across the county, at a far grander scale than we have been able to accomplish at our small school.

"Rather than narrowing our educational focus to endless iterations of standardized test scores, our community would take a broader look at children's lives, helping turn schools into anchors and meeting points for the neighborhoods and families that they serve.

"Public policy and individual choice would also work toward creating school communities that pull our children out of the isolation of race and especially of class, broadening every child's experience and providing opportunities for the highest levels of excellence at every school.

"We hear a lot these days about great teachers and involved parents. But if children are to reach their full potential, they need strong communities as well to challenge and support them.

"These goals involve plenty of obstacles: cultural and language differences; the harried lives so many of us lead, no mat ter what our income; housing patterns that frequently divide those with means from those without. They would require all of us to put more of ourselves into our public schools, from struggling single parents to corporate executives.

"But they would also help us make our schools into the best kind of public institution, one that strengthens not only individuals, but also communities and a nation. There is a difference between a goal that seems for the moment out of reach, and one not worth pursuing. Piece by piece, we have been building this kind of community at Shamrock Gardens. Staff and parents at many other schools are pursuing similar ends. None of us is there yet. But many are further down that road than we were some years ago.

"Faced with great challenges, communities and nations can divide or unite. In these hard times, we need to follow the Shamrock kindergartners' lead, and grow together."

 

 

 


Lucille Howard

Civic activist and former CMS parent

Read in The Observer

 

"CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman recently told the board of education that school course offerings are largely determined by size, student interest and staff certification. But the board still voted to create several kindergarten through eighth grade schools and one sixth through 12th grade school.

"All are destined to have limited course offerings simply because there will be fewer students at each class level. Fewer students at each class level almost certainly equate to diluted and, therefore, fewer requests for languages, higher math, advanced placement and other electives that are standard in the large middle and senior high schools.

"Seven grades in a school with 1,000 seats (an average of 143 students per grade level), which has been approved for Cochrane Middle School, guarantees almost nothing for the students beyond grade level math, language arts, history, etc. Will any Advanced Placement courses be on the schedule for Devonshire Elementary and Hickory Grove Elementary students assigned to Cochrane? It's already been presumed that students will be transported to Garinger High for any sports, band and extracurricular activities.

"A long-standing CMS goal to have equity in access to comparable educational opportunities no longer exists for students assigned to these K-8 and 6-12 schools. CMS appears to have evolved into three systems: one of low-poverty, high-achieving schools; one of magnets serving students with transportation and good "luck"; and one of high-poverty schools in low and middle income communities teaching only the "basics."

"Is institutionalized, unequal public education by zip code now acceptable? If this is so, must families who have the means leave these schools and communities in order to get an equal education for their students? Is this healthy? Is it moral? Is it legal?"

 

 

 


Tim Hurley

Head of Teach for America in Charlotte

Read in The Observer

 

"Consider this: In one elementary school, more than 90 percent of the students are proficient in both reading and math. Three miles away, in a different elementary school, only 30 percent of the students are proficient in reading and less than half are proficient in math.

"If you're wondering where this is happening, you don't need to look too far. Both of These schools are here in Charlotte.

"The unfortunate reality in our city today is that where a child lives is born determines the quality of his or her education - children growing up in low-income communities are not given the opportunities they deserve to succeed.
Solving the problem of educational inequity may seem daunting, but we know it's possible.

"Working in our city for the last two and a half years as the executive director of Teach For America's Charlotte region, I have seen many teachers - some of them Teach For America teachers, others not - lead their students in low-income communities to academic success. These classrooms, where students are held to high expectations and fully invested in their education, demonstrate that economically disadvantaged students can succeed on an absolute scale.

"Having witnessed these teachers put their kids on a different trajectory, both in school and in life, I have come to believe that having more highly effective people throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools - teaching in our classrooms, leading our schools, and making decisions within the district - is a critical part of closing the achievement gap.

"To do this, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, like any high-performing company or organization, must go out and find talent. If we want the best to work in our school system, we must be aggressive in recruiting them here. Then, we must develop them to be leaders and work hard to retain them. If we do this successfully, I think Charlotte can become a harbor of educational talent.

"This school year, there are 230 Teach For America teachers - recruited from many of our nation's top schools and selected for their records of achievement and leadership - working in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. One of my top priorities is to ensure that these teachers lead their students to achieve at the highest levels, not only for their students' sake but also because if they have a successful experience teaching in Charlotte, they are likely to stay and continue to work to expand educational opportunities for kids here. Today, there are nearly 200 Teach For America alumni living in Charlotte and 70 percent of them are working in education.

"In our city today, our students are doing their part - showing up to school ready to learn. Unfortunately, we, as a community, are not doing our part - providing all students with an excellent education. With a continued focus on recruiting talent - along with strong district leadership, support from businesses, and public will - we can ensure that every school, in every neighborhood, holds up its end of the bargain."

 

 


Steve Johnston

Member of the nonprofit Swann Fellowship education advocacy group

Read in The Observer

 

"The CMS we all deserve would make every school a place where every local elected official, every top CMS administrator and every business executive would be delighted to have their child or grandchild enroll tomorrow morning.

"The CMS we all deserve would have twice the economic resources that it has today, because the adults of this community would have ended the centuries-old North Carolina legacy of vastly underfunding public education.

"The CMS we all deserve would not teach to the test but test after teaching.

"The CMS we all deserve would focus its energy on the child at the back of the room, the child at the front of the room, and every child in between. Personal education plans would not be an ignored legal mandate but a fundamental teaching tool for preparing every single child for what parent and child decide is appropriate for that child - whether college, trade school, work or military service.

"The CMS we all deserve would have nurses in every school treating illness first, knowing that every child must be healthy to learn.

"The CMS we all deserve would honor students as the first and best teachers of other students, whether their siblings or their struggling peers. And until the day that all children enter school equally prepared, it would ensure that every school contained the range of preparation found in the county's population, so that all classes would contain students ready to teach. And of course if that's the case, there will be inspired adult teachers delighted to be in every classroom in the system, bonus or no bonus.

"The CMS we all deserve would sacrifice its own convenience and once again hold board meetings in school cafeterias for the convenience of the people it serves. It would prevent the Jim Crowism in neighborhoods from poisoning school assignments. It would make every school a magnet school - one chosen by a parent as the best place for her child. And by capturing parent involvement that way, it will have made every school as strong as CMS magnet schools have traditionally been.

"The CMS we all deserve could be so easily made out of the CMS we have. Let's get about the task."

 

Responses

"Your piece contains many excellent points. However as long as you continue with the 'Jim Crow' comments you are part of the problem. As long as you continue to attribute racism to parents' desire to have their kids in schools close to home you will alienate a strong component of CMS and you will encourage the type of behavior we saw at board meetings this fall. This divisiveness does not serve our community well.'

Sharon Starks

 

 

 


Brett Loftis

Executive Director, Council for Children's Rights

Read in The Observer

 

"What would make CMS a great school system? Public schools used to be seen as the great equalizer - the one chance for every child to compete on an even playing field with his or her peers. Perhaps that perception was never entirely true, but that idea could and should be possible. Our school system will only be truly great when every child is expected and encouraged to achieve. Clearly we have a long way to go as a community to make that happen.

"Right now, there are distinct groups of children that are failing to receive the minimum basic education, and it is happening at alarming rates. There has been a lot of important dialogue in the community about racial disparities and the economic conditions that affect a child's education, but the sad truth is that our children with disabilities are failing (or are be-ing failed) more often than any other group.

"Students with disabilities are the least likely to graduate high school; currently, only 43.3 percent graduate with their peers. That graduation rate for children with disabilities is worse than for children from economically disadvantaged homes (60 percent), worse than the rate for black children (61.6 percent) and Hispanic children (54.6 percent). This is abysmal and should not be tolerated by our community. Children with physical, emotional or learning disabilities should be supported, encouraged and expected to achieve at their highest level possible.

"So why is this happening, and what can we do to fix it? With the era of increased accountability and singular focus on test scores, our children with disabilities are the ones who have been left behind. Children who need supportive services and creative instruction from specially trained teachers are doomed by one-size-fits-all testing and cookie-cutter approaches to learning. These children need high-quality early intervention and a holistic approach to education.

"CMS is trying, but it must have tools to build the bridge to span the chasm between failure and success. Perhaps the big gest tragedy is that the current economic situation is threatening the fabric of the school system's efforts to support our most vulnerable children. CMS should be commended for creating a national model for publicly-funded pre-school with its Bright Beginnings program that serves over 3,000 young children with educational need. We know that when children who have learning problems get early intervention they have a much higher chance of succeeding in school. We also know that if children do not enter school ready to learn, they experience an ever-compounding deficit in learning that culminates in school failure and eventually high school dropouts.

"CMS has the potential to be that great equalizer and to provide an even playing field for all our children. For CMS to be truly great, we must all raise our expectations of students, teachers and public leaders who must fight to fund essential programs like Bright Beginnings and critical services for exceptional children. The need for educated young people is not in a recession."

 

 

 


John Maye

Co-founder, Save Our Schools

Read in The Observer

 

"The 'Save Our Schools' Initiative believes the CMS school system must address the specter of racism from its teachers, administrators and all personnel who influence children. This issue should be addressed in three parts:

"Prudent and trained facilitators should instruct each identified group about understanding each individual's prejudices. Facilitators should instruct individual groups about racism in history - from racism toward American Indians to racism toward African-Americans. The third part of this training would require facilitators to help the people in the groups to recognize the element of racism in school discipline and the lackadaisical "from school to prison" attitude about blacks held by many in education.

"The 'Save Our Schools' Initiative asserts that the school system must assess annually whether the instruction of reading has been successful for each child from Pre-K to second grade. If any student cannot read with clarity and comprehension by the start of third grade, one-half of the student's school day in third grade should be dedicated to the student learning to read at least to the fourth grade level before promotion to the fourth grade. Should this student require extended-day instruction in after-school support or in summer school enrichment and reinforcement, the school system's budget should be structured without any excuse or difficulty to address this essential practice. Reading is so imperative to any child's academic success and progress that the school system must develop approaches to ensure each student reads at the fourth grade level by the time the student reaches the fourth grade.

"The 'Save Our Schools' Initiative also wants more vocational education programs and training implemented. Whether it is expanded auto mechanics classes, technology courses to service ATM machines or soda machines at fast-food restaurants, plumbing, or construction and carpentry classes, CMS must develop new vocational courses to increase student graduation rates and to reduce student dropout rates. Apprenticeships in ninth grade should parallel with student interests and the pathway required for graduation. Course requirements for high school graduation must be reformed to allow course time experiences in an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship would equate, in many instances to a respectful number of hours in many elective courses and possibly some math and science classes.

"Finally, 'Save Our Schools' recommends implementation of these programs with help from community colleges, universities and public-private partnerships."

 

 

 


Bolyn McClung

Pineville resident, served on school bonds and other education committees

Read in The Observer

 

"What we want the most from our children's schools is rarely achieved. Has today's public school system matched the hope of Brown in 1954? We can still hardly do better than just hope our children find themselves in the classrooms of inspiring teachers. This isn't a sad commentary; just the reality that public education is very much hit or miss. But at CMS I see the odds improving in favor of families.

"CMS has begun rebuilding its teaching and principal core. Parents should begin finding principals possessing the wherewithal to be frank with their teachers about their skills. Rewarding the top teachers. Motivating that middle 50 percent to improve. And doing the difficult task of letting the poorly performing teachers at the bottom know there is no place for them here.

"The reconstruction will take time to reach all 178 CMS schools. The budget crisis probably will have some delaying effect. But this trend is a growing phenomenon that will be the new CMS. The process is strongly driven from the top and appears unstoppable.

"My made-up best real life description goes like this. No matter whether your family has to move to a new rental and new school every few months or your family lives in the same house for 20 years, the children will find a high caliber principal at their school leading a wide range of teachers in which he has complete faith. Your child will achieve and do it better than today's students. She will have a great future.

"Unstoppable movement? I think so and unlike the fated Brown decision, it is not being hindered by an "all deliberate speed" clause.

"But schools will still need community support. This part of the process hasn't changed. Support means parents who talk to their schools. No PhD required!

"This is what I see happening at CMS right now. Not wishes. Not hopes. Not snake-oil salesmen stuff. Real programs, well-trained principals already at 20 schools and seeding the teaching staff with the best of the best. Parents stick around! The art of educating is about to be mighty productive."

 

 

 


Violeta Moser

Executive Director, Latin American Women's Association

Read in The Observer

 

"A great school system offers all children equal access to quality education and enriching experiences. A great school system has effective and caring teachers who are well compensated and whose main role is to teach and build on a foundation of morals and values taught to children at home.

"Parents' participation in their children's education is an integral part of a great school system. A successful school system is a reflection of a thriving community supported by government, private businesses and organizations.

"Although difficult, our current economic challenge is providing a great opportunity to look closer into the performance of CMS, from academic achievement to effective use of buildings and services. Measures to reduce costs are being proposed and put in place by school administrators and experts while administrators strive to maintain the overall academic progress achieved in the last years. These measures affect many areas and are very difficult for students, parents, school staff and our community. But as tough as it is, we must unite our efforts, find creative ways, and endure or sacrifice during these trying times.

"As part of a great school system, enriching programs in school and after school need to remain. Some of these pro grams are currently being provided by community organizations working in collaboration with CMS to enhance the academic and social development of students.

"For example, the Latin American Women's Association (LAWA), a community organization, has a mentor-tutor program called 'Parents and Godparents' in three elementary schools. This is a comprehensive and culturally sensitive program to enhance the academic and social development of Latino students. The program provides individual tutoring with volunteer tutors.

"As part of the program, LAWA delivers parenting sessions for parents in the program. And to reinforce social development, increase self esteem and physical activity, the program has a dance component called "Dancing for Diversity" for the students and their classmates to learn Latin dances and share cultural experiences. The program engages students, parents and teachers.

"Another program offered by LAWA in collaboration with Johnson C. Smith University is a series of workshops for high school juniors and seniors and their parents to encourage students to complete high school and pursue higher education. The workshops are delivered on Saturdays at JCSU.

"Funding for both programs come from a series of small grants, private fundraising and donations from the local community.

"

 

 


Kathy Ridge

Former head, Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education, consultant

Read in The Observer

 

"The great school system CMS can become necessitates developing excellent teachers; requiring emboldened administrators and school board members; modernizing delivery practices; funding innovative curriculum programs; and activating community support.

"Great teachers are a prerequisite for a great school system. We hear about Pay for Performance with accountability, but that can often sound like "make them do better!" Every year, teachers' jobs become more complex. For some, programs such as Teach for America provide weekly professional support during the first two years in classroom management, learning styles and captivating student attention. In contrast, most teachers have to learn by "sink or swim." A great school system will provide teachers with high-caliber development and dynamic coaching that models and instructs. Having master coaches, including retired teachers, is critical to building mastery and motivation. As teachers are the primary determinant for student achievement, so principals are the key to retaining and inspiring excellent teachers. In the state's Working Conditions surveys, it is clear principals most affect how teachers feel about their jobs. Creating positive, dynamic cultures in each school is the principal's responsibility: where all share the belief every student can learn and every child will graduate from high school.

"Antiquated practices of content delivery must change. Dated lectures and worksheets don't recognize the real world for today's kids. Outside the classroom, students gain information via cell phones, not by passively listening. We teach today as our grandparents learned decades ago. In a great school system, every classroom must be wireless. Every class can use SMS texting to take tests and share opinions. Writing 140 character sentences will teach writing and editing. Long distance learning is not only more relevant, it is more cost effective. Teachers can spend their time working directly with students, creating participatory experiences. Teachers can help students assimilate and LEARN rather than preparing to present information. In a great school system, arts and innovation will permeate every subject to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

"Career and technical programs will have schools devoted to them, like New York City's K-14 programs, where students commit to earn a high school diploma combined with a college associate's degree. Employers can offer after-school and summer internships, summer employment and contingent job offers extended to students as they begin their final school year.

"For a great school system, the community won't use the public schools as the punching bag for society's ills. Rather, the community recognizes school issues are the result of society's issues. City and county governments will work with each other and outside agencies to ensure children are ready for school and once there, healthy and secure enough to learn. Corporate and private funders will work to secure funding that enables transformation. We have a good foundation to become this great school system. We need the public will to insist on moving barriers and bureaucracy aside and committing the support , leadership and resources to create this future for our students and ourselves."

 

 


Sharon Starks

Civic activist and former CMS parent

Read in The Observer

 

"It would be easy to make a wish list for the CMS of the next 10 years - to tally up the various "fixes" that have been suggested by one expert or another as the silver bullet that will save our system, eliminate the achievement gap, and make every school a great school. However, I believe that unless we first "fix" this community's attitude towards our school system no new plan or theory of action - no matter how beguiling - will ever solve the education equation. And without that attitude adjustment, 10 years from now we will still be fighting the same battles, most likely with ever-eroding support for CMS.

"I have lived in Charlotte for 16 years, which by no means makes me a CMS expert. But first as a CMS parent and volunteer, later as a Citizen's Task Force member, and finally an Equity Committee member, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of this system. The more I learn about our system the more complex it becomes. While CMS is now going by the fashionable term "urban school district," we are in reality a huge, wide-spread metropolitan school system, one which needs to accommodate the often competing needs of urban, suburban and even rural families. And with those competing needs have come a myriad of federal and state mandates, a seemingly impersonal bureaucracy, and a confused public.

"So for many it is easier just to stick with what "they know" about CMS rather than trying to make sense of ever changing data, conflicting opinions, and divisive public posturing on the part of too many civic leaders. Some 'know' the system is unfair because they remember all too well the years when CMS was not equally serving all children. Thus they continue to operate on the assumption that nothing has changed - that when a policy decision is made it is based solely on race, or that our inner city schools are rundown and under-supplied while suburban schools are all shining Taj Mahals. Others are equally sure that urban parents are uncaring and lazy and that their children are running wild through the schools. And many others 'know' that the whole system is terrible and not worth our tax dollars. What gets lost in all this 'knowing' is the truth about the real progress that has been made throughout our system.

"Unfortunately this divide in what we know about CMS (and our fellow citizens) has been tolerated and, I think, even encouraged. And while the public can take much pride in its efforts over the years to make CMS an equitable and inclusive school system, I don't think we nor our civic leaders can be proud of this 'us against them' attitude that has been allowed to fester alongside that pride. Until this divisiveness is addressed, there is no point in painting pretty pictures of what the future might bring."

 

 


John Tate

Former CMS school board, currently serving on State Board of Education

Read in The Observer

 

"America needs a cultural shift. Consider the following:

"Parents/kids: Education needs to be guarded and held as the highest priority for a family. Parents need to ensure that the home is a supportive environment where high expectations abound, where communication openly flows, and where demands are made relative to investments of time and energy. Kids need to learn early that education is a gift, one that requires a serious investment on their part. We owe it to them to demand more of them. And, as adults, we need to guide our children to be prepared for life, and ensure they understand that neith education nor their life after is a lay-up. This is all about investment and return.

"Teaching professionals: We need to hold our teachers in highest regard, treating them as the professionals they are while also holding them accountable to do their jobs. Not only do we need to honor this profession, we need to invest in it - to the point where we are attracting the top third of our college graduates to it. There should be no higher calling. In the process, we need to pay a competitive market wage. And pay moving forward should be accompanied by results as evidenced in student gains. To ensure this success, we need to arm our teachers with continual professional development opportunities as well as new tools in technology. The focus needs to be on effective teaching and not tenure. We need to better understand what makes a good teacher and find ways to replicate these practices in others. Teachers' performances need to be transparent so that parents know the probability that their child will receive a year's worth of education. Remember: our state's own constitution guarantees as much. Every child deserves an effective teacher - every year. Every school demands a strong leader.

"Taxpayers and elected leaders: Public education becomes our highest priority. While demanding positive results, we acknowledge the need to invest along the way, including at the outset for quality preschool developmental care. Affordable quality care ensures developmentally, age-appropriate growing/learning opportunities. Effectively "public education" begins before birth. Once in school, kids receive the sound, basic education they deserve under our constitution, and we accompany it with solid afterschool programming to complement their day. To work, effective partnering is a necessity among parents and teachers and the community. Everyone has to pull their weight, including our kids.The school day has to be both rigorous and relevant - and, in the process, our teachers have to make it personal and individualized.

"Technology: We've got to make better use of technology: from virtual learning to e-textbooks to smartboards to blanketed broadband access and the world of the Internet. There are new tools - interactive ones, which can dramatically help a teacher ensure that each child is learning at an appropriate level and constantly being pushed to the next. It's time for a paradigm shift here.

Finally, in this economic climate, we have got to be very thoughtful and very intentional. We have no choice but to learn to do more with less - including looking at new ways to spend the resources we have. The last quarter century has seen considerable inflows of currency with regrettably poor returns. It's imperative that we reassess how we spend our money and what we demand in return. It's time for a new day- from all constituencies: kids, parents, teachers, rule-makers, our society at large. We owe this to our children and their teachers."

 

 


Dorothy Wadd

President, West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition, and a leader of a community education advocacy group

Read in The Observer

 

"I am a black woman, 71 years old and would hope that we do not have to deal with racism anymore. But it can be subtle, not overt. It is there but you don't know it is there. You cannot touch it or feel it. But there are people who know how to use it while smiling and grinning in your face and declaring "I AM NOT A RACIST."

"When you look at how things ended up on approved school closings in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last month, it makes you wonder!

"I would hope that the school system, especially Superintendent Peter Gorman, would be above "racism." But, as I am told and read in the newspapers, there were other schools throughout the school system that were looked at to be considered to be closed. As quickly as the schools were looked at, just as quickly they disappeared from the list. The schools that stayed on the list were the schools that had the highest percentage of blacks and were in the inner ring of the schools system.

"Now Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is talking about turning the elementary schools K-5 into K-8. So far it is just the inner city schools that are being affected again. But if money is really the issue and if K-8 schools are good enough for the inner-city schools, they should be good enough for ALL schools throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg. If K-8 schools will save money in the inner city, then why not save money throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg?

"Unfortunately Peter Gorman and SOME school board representatives have lost my respect!

"Here is what could be done to regain it and make Charlotte-Mecklenburg a great school system for ALL children:
If the superintendent does not recognize that ALL children need to have a good education and that every school should be a GOOD school, then he needs to be fired!

"Acknowledge that ALL children deserve a good education.

"Provide GOOD teachers who want to teach all children regardless of where they come from.

"Find out WHY teachers do not want to teach ALL children.

"Set a policy that says when a teacher is hired the teacher has to go where he/she is needed.

"Make ALL schools a good place to learn.

"Make ALL schools a good place to TEACH. In other words ALL schools should mirror each other.

"Hire staff people who want to make sure that EVERY CHILD IS EDUCATED.

"Help the people who have the responsibility for drawing boundary lines for the schools.

"STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH OUR CHILDREN!"