Monday, November 1, 2010

CMS closings: Dollars and sense?

While I was vacationing last week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools posted a more detailed account of the costs and savings projected from the big school shakeup. I've been trying to make sense of it, with help from CMS planner Dennis LaCaria.

It's not the easiest chart to read, but you'll notice that the biggest projected savings come from "personnel," with no specifics offered. LaCaria said the proposal does not involve cutting classroom teachers. The assumption is that if a certain number of students move from, say, Spaugh Middle, which would be closed, to new preK-8 schools at nearby elementaries, the teaching positions would move to those new schools.

The job cuts -- an estimated 60 to 80 if the school board approves all proposed changes next week -- come from principals and assistants, school librarians, counselors, secretaries, custodians, cafeteria workers and others that would become redundant when schools close or merge. The biggest personnel savings, a little over $1 million, is listed at Harding High, a westside magnet that was added to the closing list just last week. The plan calls for moving the IB magnet to Waddell and the math/science magnet to Berry. Plenty of support staff would apparently disappear.

According to the finance plan, moving Smith Language Academy, a K-8 magnet, into Harding's newly renovated campus would cost more than $900,000. That's for installing smaller toilets and other facilities, LaCaria said. He disputed rumors that the switch would require hauling trailers to Harding; the three-story school includes enough first-floor classrooms to house the youngest children, as required by law.

If the plan goes through, Smith's middle-schoolers would inherit the state-of-the-art science labs that opened as part of Harding's $19 million in renovations last year. Berry's labs aren't quite as current, but the school offers "very good instructional space," LaCaria said.

Other points that require some explanation:

Busing costs are not yet calculated for several of the plans. That's because district officials will have to figure out bell schedules and other details, LaCaria said. He said the current assumption is that this year's controversial "shuttle stop" plan for some magnets will remain in force.

Two of the plans -- turning Winding Springs Elementary into a neighborhood school and making Cochrane Middle cover grades 6-12 -- will actually cost CMS more. LaCaria said the Winding Springs plan avoids the eventual cost of building a new school to relieve crowded Hornets Nest Elementary. And he said shifting some students from Garinger High to Cochrane will be a break-even plan in about five years.

The plan to turn Irwin Avenue Elementary into CMS office space includes an unexplained "miscellaneous" savings of almost $236,000 linked to moving people from the uptown Education Center to Irwin. LaCaria says that's because CMS would move other staff out of leased space and into the newly-vacant Ed Center offices.

And finally, it's still hard to say how many students would see major changes under this plan. CMS's tally includes everyone in any school on the list. For instance, a proposal to move about 50 students from Community House to South Charlotte Middle is listed as affecting about 2,400 kids, the combined enrollment of the two schools. Using that method, almost 28,000 students would see some kind of change in programs or enrollment.

About 21,000 more attend schools slated for "targeted assistance" to improve academics, image or student mobility. With a budget of $0 -- that's right: zip -- for 21 schools, it's hard to imagine that's going to be a huge deal.

So ... some of you have a jump start on me. What are you thinking and asking as you crunch the numbers?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ann,
Have you been able to get an answer on whether there will actually be more IB seats at Alexander Middle School for 2011-12 than there are at DIB this year? We've been hearing conflicting things, but I have heard that an increase in IB seats is not included in the math for the cost savings of closing DIB. What have you heard?
Thank you!

DRB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It is interesting that the closing costs for closing Harding are identical to those listed several weeks ago for closing Waddell. The upfit costs to move Smith are identical at Harding to what they were to upfit at Waddell.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Good question. I've shot it to the folks who should know. Hope to get an answer tomorrow. Everything I've heard is that more IB seats is one of the big benefits of this plan ... but it always pays to check.

Anonymous said...

Smith staff have been told by the CMS architects that they WILL require a mobile 10 classroom unit called a big bertha.

Anonymous said...

Ann,
I don't understand the cost analysis for the Oakhurst/Morgan proposal. Where is the cost to retrofit Oakhurst Elementary to accommodate 6th through 8th graders? Why would Morgan see a personnel savings simply by changing buildings? How did they calculate the transportation savings? By displacing the Oakhurst neighborhood children and busing them, they will see an increase in transportation costs for those students, and an even higher increase if some of them opt out of the Title 1 schools they will be sent to. Finally, the personnel from Oakhurst's administrative team seems high since no teachers will lose their jobs. I would appreciate any answers you could provide.

Anonymous said...

Ann, welcome back. The state of the art classrooms serve absolutely no purpose at Harding when the science department downtown provides no supplies for the middle school anyway. Does the $900K include the astronomical moving costs? CMS personnel won't be doing that, right? The teachers at Smith are already preparing for Pete to dictate staff "assistance in movement." How much savings has Pete determined in killing the Language program at West Meck? It's dead in everything but name only. Finally, Pete sure looks great in the eyes of the Magnet Schools of America national convention held in Charlotte last year where he was the man of the year. Amazing how he truly is the centerfold representative of "hero to zero."

Anonymous said...

It seems that the school board is finally starting to realize that they need to start spending money more wisely now. They have to make hard choices. Any school that is on the list will face outrage from the students,parents,etc. We need to let them do their job because none of the parents complaining are going to donate money to help cover the budget shortfall.

wiley said...

Projected $80 to $100 million dollar CMS budget deficit...

Year One
Recurring
Year Two Total
‐$3,640,760
‐$6,496,091
‐$10,359,050

I don't see much of a dent in the deficit.

When CMS came up with the magnet transportation scheme, they claimed it would save $3.5 million dollars, which was an estimate. Since many of the magnets and boundaries will change, all of that planning is wasted.

I have yet to hear why CMS will not do the same with neighborhood schools, many of which boundaries will get larger, in order to save even more money.

I have also yet to see CMS cut out ALL sports programs which can save between $5 and $6 million more dollars.

Anonymous said...

Why is CMS placing their staff in Irwin? It isn't big enough to hold all of their staff and the PDC. Why not keep students in that location. They can go to JT Williams or Lincoln Heights of combination of both.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of things about the CMS numbers that don't make sense. And while Dennis may be saying that all the K-1 students can be placed in the buildings on the ground floor, the CMS architects are definitely not saying that to the Smith staff. They are definitely telling them there will have to be a 10 room mobile unit to handle those grades. If true, then there will obviously be another upgrade/addition coming to Harding in the future. Waddell would not require any such units or unusual upgrades

Anonymous said...

We the tax payers and the parents of the children who go to these schools have every right to speak our minds when it comes to our children. When was the last time you stood up for something worth fighting for? This country is so complacent, for once stop worring about offending the people in charge. We are the people in charge and we need to stand up and fight for our children's future. Stop letting Peter Gorman look down his nose at us because we care. Stop the wasteful spending and make decisions based on the schools who are performing instead of the schools you hope will perform.

Anonymous said...

i completely agree that we as parents and taxpayers have a right to speak our minds. however, screaming and disrupting meetings and encouraging students to walk out of classrooms is NOT acceptable. if you expect the school system to listen to you, you should show the same respect that you want in return.

Anonymous said...

In response to the question on whether there will be more IB seats at Alexander for 2011-12 than currently at DIB. The short answer is no. That is not part of the cost savings plan. After it is approved, then they would look at the cost of expanding the program to allow more students and discuss with the Alexander principle. So, in reality they will close DIB and those students will move to Alexander and there will not be any additional IB slots at Alexander.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On the DIB/Alexander question: Dennis LaCaria and Jeff Linker, the magnet director, say the number of IB magnet seats at Alexander remains an open question. The building has room to add up to 400 more magnet seats, but it'd be up to the principal to decide whether and how much to expand the magnet program. (Who would be principal of the merged school? That's the kind of question that will provide the next wave of drama after the board's vote.)
You're right that any costs of expanding the magnet aren't factored into current estimates. LaCaria says that would depend partly on where the students come from.

Anonymous said...

As the letter in today's Forum says, why crush an excellent, effective school like Irwin Avenue just to provide office space for CMS staff members? There is no shortage of reasonably priced office space all over the county. And what about Irwin's IB students? Where will they go? There is talk of making Blythe an IB magnet. It takes years to get IB status. And Blythe is 12 miles from Irwin, so where are the transportation savings that CMS is touting? As far as personnel savings go, you would save some money if you closed any school. So why not close Myers Park High School? You would save money. Just because you can save money doesn't make it the right thing to do. Finally, why does the burden of these changes continue to fall most heavily on minority and the economically disadvantaged? If we must sacrifice, it should be more equitably distributed. Children's and families' lives are to be disrupted because CMS wants office space in a good location with good parking?

Anonymous said...

Ann, thank you for sorting through the numbers. It is not an easy task, nor completely transparent. We are still trying to get answers from CMS regarding the cost of up-fitting the Irwin Avenue building from classrooms to office space. The projected savings of closing Irwin are NOT net of the additional costs of these renovations. Nor is there any indication that there would be any savings going forward, as the building would still be operated and maintained by CMS. What is clear is that CMS administration would be getting new offices while students and their families, will be scattered with additional costs incurred transporting them further distances to school.

Anonymous said...

Notice how there are no increases in the personnel costs at either Waddell or Phillip O Berry? They have said that Harding's IB program and Science and Math program are moving BUT where is the personnel cost associated with that move?

Ann Doss Helms said...

If staff are moving from one location to another, CMS doesn't list them as a cost or saving; it's considered a wash.

Anonymous said...

Ann,
I missed you. I was praying that you were not sick.

That St. Orange fella screens everything we write, censorship at its best!

I couldn't stand it. And the other reporters do a half a$$ job on the education beat.

Glad you're back! Whew!

Anonymous said...

Ann,
If CMS is closing schools, why are they proceeding with painting, refurbishing, landscaping, etc. at those schools? Where is the logic in giving a facelift to a closing school? Are they sprucing up the building to sell it?

Anonymous said...

Would IB authorization for Davidson IB be at risk with the move to JM Alexander if less than two-thirds of DIB's IB faculty or students were to move to the new site? Obvioulsy, cost of transportation will increase with a partial magnet at JM Alexander because CMS will have to go back to door - door busing. CMS has enough information at their fingertips to determine the cost of transportation. Seems like they don't want to because it will show that this really isn't as much of a cost savings as they say it is.

Anonymous said...

Ann, thanks for trying to help us understand this budget, but too many answers to the cost of items are still missing. It is insulting to me as a resident of Charlotte to have Pete Gorman think we are complete idiots who care nothing about the future of our city. To start an IB program at Blythe is very expensive. But this is how he gets school board members to vote on his destructive policies. He promises them new schools and new programs while he destoys others. Not only is he taking DIB to prop up this area,but he also took West Charlotte's incoming 9th IB students and put them at North Meck. to try to make up their lost due to Hough. He and his greedy grabbing board needs to be audited then let go.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about the magnet program at Smith. Have there been any study done on how the children succeed after they start high school? It seems it would be extremely difficult for a child to adjust to a regular school in English after so many years of being taught in a different language. How do they adjust? Is additional funding used for these children to join the "norm" again by providing extra assistance? It doesn't make sense for these children to be put through something like that. I don't believe that magnet program should end at 8th grade. So why keep it if it can't be expanded?