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CMS board ranks priorities in student assignment
Individual members ranked categories of interest in assignment debate. Board vote on goals set for July 20.

By Ann Doss Helms
[email protected]
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 10, 2010

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is moving toward a July 20 vote on student-assignment goals now that all board members have weighed in on their desired goals.

On Friday, board Chair Eric Davis and Vice Chair Tom Tate released a list of broad categories that rate high and low among board members.

Promoting student achievement remains at the top, with near-unanimous agreement that it should dominate decision-making. Davis and Tate, who have been talking with other members since the last public meeting, say the goal is to seek gains for individual students.

“We’re not into just moving students around to make a school look good,” Davis said.

Magnet programs and “equity of educational opportunity” remain high. Members showed little enthusiasm for capping the size of neighborhood schools, and ranked cutting busing costs low on the list.

Still unclear is whether the full board will be ready to vote at the July 20 special meeting, at 2 p.m. at the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

Kaye McGarry e-mailed her colleagues Friday afternoon to say she is not ready to vote. She said she doesn’t think members have even defined their terms clearly, let alone come to agreement on goals.

“This is a disservice to our families in our community. They have yet to know what our ‘hidden agenda’ is and ‘if’ we even have one,” McGarry wrote. “Are we planning to revise the entire student assignment plan for the 2011-12 year??? They need to know this. I need to be clear on this point as well. I think we are, but there is more work to be done.”

Richard McElrath said he thinks the process has been good for getting public feedback, but he has no idea what the rest of the board is thinking about priorities.

Davis said he’s still trying to figure out points of agreement and difference. “Obviously, the most difficult is ‘diversity,'” he said.

The list released Friday defines diversity as “Respect for people of all cultures. Inclusion of people of all cultures, not exclusion.”

It was not clear how that would play out in student assignment, with some board members pushing to balance enrollment by race and family income, while others say “diversity” applies to ideas, national origin and/or academic offerings.

McElrath, elected to the board last November, said he’s been shocked to realize how many schools have very few white students.

“We need to bring white people back into the system,” said McElrath, who is African-American. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Davis and Tate announced locations for the next two public forums, which will be used to start “brainstorming solutions,” Davis said. The format hasn’t been set, but he said participants might discuss such questions as what it would take to make weak neighborhood schools successful.

More public forums
Those forums will be at 6:30 p.m. July 20 at Ridge Road Middle School, 7260 Highland Creek Parkway, and 6:30 p.m. July 29 at Crestdale Middle School, 940 Sam Newell Road, Matthews.

The rankings

Posted: Friday, Jul. 09, 2010

With all nine members of the school board voting, here’s how broad goals for student assignment ranked, from highest to lowest.

Student achievement: All decisions will be judged on whether they advance academic performance.

Equity: Decisions should provide “equity of educational opportunity.”

Magnets: Magnets are “part of our comprehensive student assignment plan,” but further research is needed to make decisions about specific programs.

Predictability: Families should know what to expect.

Effective building use: Officials will look at use, costs, building age and condition. “Community participation may influence.

Stability: Decisions will promote stability in student assignment and school administration, faculty and program.

Proximity: “Student assignment that connects a school that offers desired programs to family residence or workplace intended to foster parental involvement.”

Diversity: “Respect for people of all cultures, inclusion of people of all cultures, not exclusion.”

Neighborhood schools: “Schools located in the community from which their students are assigned.”

Shared sacrifice and benefit: Officials will consider the cost of students who aren’t achieving and “unintended consequences of not doing.”

Transportation cost: Decisions will reduce busing cost.

Sibling guarantee: Younger siblings of students admitted to magnets will have guaranteed admission unless there are requirements they don’t meet.

Capping enrollment: Setting limits for the size of neighborhood schools and reassigning students if schools exceed the cap.