Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The CMS hidden agenda

One of the recurring questions about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' "comprehensive review" is whether there's a hidden agenda. Skeptics suspect the hours of meetings and public forums are for show, crafted to create a cloak of public buy-in for whatever has already been plotted.

Board Chair Eric Davis opened Tuesday's meeting with the observation that if the board had a predetermined plan, the process would surely be moving more quickly and smoothly than it has.

He's got a point. While any given board member may have an agenda, it's pretty clear the board as a whole is far from agreement, in public or behind the scenes. It's telling that there's even debate about exactly what is being comprehensively reviewed. Student assignment? Student achievement? Spending? All of the above? The official introduction on CMS's website says the review is "intended to help the Board align decision-making in multiple areas with the goals of the district's strategic plan as well as take a consistent, strategic approach to individual issues." All clear now?

Much more likely is that Superintendent Peter Gorman has an agenda that will shape what plays out over the next few weeks. When Kaye McGarry asked about it, he made no bones about the fact that he and his staff are working on options without waiting for the board to approve guidelines.

But Gorman's agenda isn't particularly hidden. Last year he laid out a five-year plan with much fanfare and a series of public meetings. He's been talking for months about closing schools in 2011-12, and given some hints about how he plans to do it.

What remains a mystery, and what people are dying to know, is specifics. Remember, the 2010 opening of new high schools in Cornelius and Mint Hill was no secret. It wasn't until officials rolled out plans that affected nearby schools -- and eventually spilled across most of the county -- that things got hairy.

At Tuesday night's forum, Debbie Duniec, a parent at Smith Language Academy, asked Gorman and the board to let the public see plans as they're being crafted. And she urged them to make sure proposals include price tags; after all, many of these changes are being driven by budget cuts.

"I think we need to already have those (preliminary plans) out on the table," she said.

Davis told her plans will start coming out next month. "We want to do it in a way that doesn't inflame or anger," he said.

And there's the sticky part. If CMS ends up closing 10 schools, officials will likely look at 20 as possible targets. Some will be eliminated before the proposals go public. So is it better to spare those families the angst of being publicly identified? Duniec and others like her would say parents and faculty have so much knowledge to contribute that they should be looped in early, possibly steering CMS leaders to different conclusions than they'd reach in their offices.


Anonymous said...

"We want to do it in a way that doesn't inflame or anger," he said.


That means the plans will inflame and anger.

Anonymous said...

I think it is sad the BOE will not see how better the students perform in magnet schools. From what "Pete" has said, you pretty well see what he is thinking of doing. What happens then is the schools he sends these urban students will soon be overcapacity and the extra resources these kids enjoyed in the urban schools will nto be able to cover these split-ups.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how those inner city communities are going to feel when Pete proposes to shut down fairly new schools and put their kids on buses for an hour or more.

Anonymous said...

Pete (and maybe Tom) has his agenda. The board has not figured it out yet till Pete leads them done the "yellow brick road".

Anonymous said...

I don't often agree where they end up, but these guys are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Pete Gorman has the hardest job in Charlotte.

Most of the board members are sincere and putting in huge amounts of time to get to what each thinks is a good solution.

We should give the superintendent and the board a lot of credit for trying, even if we want to crucify them for what they ultimately decide.

maberman said...

Fixing CMS is like working a Rubik's cube,
with eight people debating and deciding each turn, and a bunch of people who are affected every time a yellow, red or white square moves to a different face yelling at the eight people.

Anonymous said...

Who is in control? Is it the Board or is it Gorman? And exactly who does Pete work for?

There ought to be checks and balances and Pete needs to be checked! He going forward with his plans without letting the board know what he's doing. Really???

The BOE must be afraid of Pete. We need real leadership in CMS.

One suggestion Pete (if you're reading), move those learning communities and area superintendents into underpopulated schools.

Then close the old school buildings that are infested with mold spores that are making students and teachers sick!

Ann Doss Helms said...

Maberman, wish I'd come up with that metaphor!

Anonymous said...

I can't remember the last thing that Dr. Gorman wanted, that the board didn't let him do. I think of the attempts made to save teachers' jobs by three of the board members, the process involving pay cuts. It would have saved jobs, but because it conflicted with Dr. Gorman's theory of "We can't change the kids, so what happens if we change the teachers'" theory," it was voted down.
It was legal. It could have excluded minimum wage people, and class sizes would be smaller this year, not the 40+ many of us are dealing with.

I think the fact that it took so long to get the Butler/Hough/Myers Park/East Meck thing done shows there IS a plan. If they plan on making major changes in three months, they already know what they want to do, and the board is, well, on board.

Anonymous said...

Some of the magnet programs are the highest performing schools. Why would they be on the chopping block? Parents need choices beyond the neighborhood school. In our situation, the magnet school my kids attend out perform the home school by a lot! Why cut out programs that are obviously working. However, once again, DIB will be on the list of schools that need to be closed.

Donna said...

Gorman's agenda IS the "secret agenda" that I'm worried about. It is crazy-making that CMS staff are not more upfront about the things that they are thinking about doing to/within/about the schools. We the parents are reduced to guessing, and then to lobbying as many BOE members as we can over to our side of things.

I'd like it much better if we could know what CMS staff (including Gorman) are planning, so that we can deal with the plans on their merits (or lack thereof), and truly facilitate good decision making by the BOE.

Anonymous said...

Parents might want to research the agenda that follows the "research" and the grants that Pete depends on. Eli Broad, Gates Foundation, and the network that is much more than just TFA newbies have a national purpose that isn't just service motivated. A neutered BOE that, with one exception, falls into step with whatever has been dictated to the staff. There are many blogs of varying reliability questioning the motives of the traveling band of educational bureaucrats working their resumes to give dubious claim to their future consultant credentials. The CMS hidden agenda has become a national revocation of local school controls.

maberman said...


You are welcome to claim the metaphor.

If I had thought more I'd have said "big Rubik's cube."

Anonymous said...

"Then close the old school buildings that are infested with mold spores that are making students and teachers sick!"
Being a teacher affected by this, my doctor has urged me to quit for this very reason, but I can't. My health has deteriorated significantly since joining CMS. If the public only knew how bad this is. I bet "independent agency health assessments" could point to which schools need to be closed immediately. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

So how many more suburban parents will CMS lose during the next 5 years?

Anonymous said...

Two of my former students used a grandparent's "address" in Belmont to avoid going to a westside CMS high school in order to attend Southpoint. Just like the Providence, AK, and MP parents do (or did), others take the convenient way out of CMS to ensure their children's success.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that after a day of walking in the shoes of the homeless, the leader of our schools Peter Gorman, seemed shocked to find out that a large number of students in high poverty schools leave school every day not knowing if they'll have a bed to sleep in or food to eat! Where has he been or didn't he study the poverty statistics before he lumped all 49 high poverty schools in one zone! How could his and the BOE decision have been an informed one if they didn't actually no the face of poverty and its effect on students and their learning. He just seemed equally befuddled when he was greeted by a CMS employee who was receiveing services from Crisis assistance. Hello, get your head out of the clouds and stop building your portfolio for your next high paying job. You see Mr. Gorman the teachers in the trenches are the ones who must face this reality everyday Teaching is more than an 8-5 job, it's more than standing in front of class and reciting facts, it's more than teaching with the limited supplies CMS provides and expects to see much much more in terms of materials, tradebooks, manipulatives and hands-on learning materials.Teachers buy these things out of their limited pay checks. The next time you see a great learning environment that is print rich and full of interactive and engaging instruction and rich learning experiences, ask how much the teacher bought out of pocket or made and how much CMS provided. The disparity would be shocking. Pete and the BOE seem to forget that teachers must be nurses, psychologists, doctors, therapist, mothers, fathers and educators. Yet inspite of the limited support, the low morale, the "Rift" culture, the degrading of the value of advanced degrees and experiences, it was the dedicated teachers working in horrendous work conditions that caused student achievement to improve yet who is lauded and applauded "Pete".

Anonymous said...

..Pete and the BOE seem to forget that teachers must be nurses, psychologists, doctors, therapist, mothers, fathers and educators...

I think a few of the BOE are aware of this. But as you say, Pete and others have other things on their minds. The sad part of this is as you spread these kids out among more schools, it will be tougher to address these special needs. Additionally, in many of these other schools, teachers "teach" thus the students get exposed to those things they will see on the tests. If my child ended up in one of the classes with enough of the "needs" students and thus was denied instruction time, I would be irate. If these kids have issues that need to be addressed, send them out of the class to whenever they are addressed. All children have the right to the education time but do not deny that to children who are there to learn. This Charlotte society has become "sick" believing that children who have the support environment they need, need only score the minimum to pass the tests instead of learning to really soar.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"If the public only knew how bad this is." That says it all. I am a teacher in CMS too and that sums up everything. We keep our jobs as we fear for our health and as we cope with increasingly more pressure from the top to squeeze out even more higher performance from our students. The kids are under tremendous stress at home with parents' lost jobs and the negative atmosphere at school that we try so hard to prevent.

And we don't have anywhere to go. Our jobs are cut and we aren't allowed to transfer (except to new schools) and other counties have hiring freezes; we were furloughed and we have been frozen at the same step (1 year of experience or whatever) for years. We are constantly being told by our principals that we should be grateful for having jobs, and we are--but you can only be so grateful when having the job comes with an overwhelming amount of stress.