Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CMS budget ax falls; Bright Beginnings spared for now

11:58: and after six hours, the meeting's adjourned. Thanks all for tuning in.

11:47: Outgoing CMS athletics director Vicki Hamilton's giving a presentation on the new reality of pay-to-play fees in middle and high school sports. CMS has raised just over $1 million in participation fees, community donations and ticket sales surcharges.

11:36: Motion to postpone Bright Beginnings vote until Feb. 8 passes 8-0. Chairman Eric Davis says whether or not it ultimately survives isn't just a question for the school board members, "it's a question for this entire community." He and others say they hope to see businesses, nonprofits or philanthropic groups step up and help.

11:25: Merchant on Bright Beginnings and his desire to hold off on voting: "I'm concerned we're going down this path in an overly fatalistic way when in fact better choices may be available ... the situation is dire, but it's not hopeless."

11:15: Joyce Waddell now has a motion on the floor to postpone the Bright Beginnings vote until the board's first meeting in February. Rhonda Lennon says if no solution is found (i.e., outside funding), she says she's voting to cut Bright Beginnings in two weeks.

11:12: Appears Bright Beginnings vote may not happen tonight. Gorman says board members keep telling him they're not ready to vote and want more time, and he's willing to go back and look for more options. But he cautions that he doesn't have any ideas. Anyone who wants to save Bright Beginnings needs to get busy, he suggests.

11:07: Cuts to weighted student staffing passes 6-2, with Joyce Waddell and Tom Tate voting against it.

10:53: Tom Tate says he isn't comfortable voting to cut extra teachers for low-income students. "I fear again this is one of those things that's going to be seen as balancing the budget on the backs of our most needy students ... I just don't think it's absolutely necessary to do this today." But Tim Morgan and Rhonda Lennon say they will support it.

10:50: Waddell's motion fails 3-5, with Waddell, Tom Tate and Richard McElrath the only votes in favor. Trent Merchant moves approval of Dr. Gorman's plan to cut extra teachers for low-income students.

10:42: Joyce Waddell has proposed postponing the vote on cuts to Bright Beginnings and teachers for low-income students until the board's first meeting in February. "We're not just making cuts, we're closing entire schools...and we said we were finished with closing schools."

10:40: Motion to change the bell schedules passes 7-1, with Kaye McGarry the lone dissenter. (Coach Joe White is absent).

10:27: Apologies for going radio silent for a while there. Internet connection problems -- hopefully resolved. Still no vote yet on the budget cuts.

9:45: Trent Merchant says only the highest-priority items on the budget-cutting list stand a chance of surviving at this point. Thiose items include teacher positions in grades 4-12, teachers assigned to help low-income students and academic support positions at schools

9:42: Tim Morgan notes that magnet transporation is "noticeably absent" from the proposed cuts. Gorman says his team decided that, if they are going to offer magnets, they have to make it available to all students -- i.e., even those who can't get there without transportation. Gorman to Morgan: "If that ($100 million) budget shortfall turns into $130 million, we could be in a different place, sir."

9:37: Gorman and board members are talking about plans to possibly privatize some services. Tim Morgan says he wants to look into privatizing more transportation services, as well as internet technology and other areas. "With the budget the way it is, now is the time to move forward," he says.

9:18: Board members have begun debating the cuts, but no one yet has said they will refuse to make the kind of deep cuts Gorman says must be made. Kaye McGarry questions whether CMS is paying administrative costs for grant-funded programs the district doesn't necessarily have to be running.

9:05: Gorman tells the board "these aren't budget cuts we like or we want or we prefer." These, he says, are the best of the bad choices available to the board in a bleak budget year. He says cuts have been most severe in high schools, and he's put them highest in priority for restoration should the budget outlook improve.

8:58: Board is now hearing a presentation from CMS finance officer Sheila Shirley, outlining the proposed cuts.

8:56: Board votes to put off approval of their proposed legislative agenda. Vote was 8-0 (Joe White's absent). Board members said they didn't feel it was ready.

8:45: CMS spokesperson LaTarzja Henry says the technical gremlins plaguing the live-streaming can't be solved tonight.

8:40: Richard McElrath, speaking about the board's legislative agenda, said he wants the board's desire for more flexibility with its calendar to be listed as a specific point of (desired) action by the legislature. He gets backing on that from Tom Tate. The controversy over using the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a snow make-up day obviously is still reverberating with the school board members.

8:26: Trent Merchant gives a wag of the finger to the parents who have come before the board tonight complaining about how state and county officials need to get behind CMS. The proposed cuts on the agenda aren't "new news," he says, nor are the needs CMS says it has. Why haven't people been more active? "Shame on you. And I mean it," he said, prompting murmurs from the audience. "Get to work."

8:11: And after two hours of sometimes emotional speeches by parents, students and activists, the public hearing has drawn to a close. The board's debating its 2011 legislative agenda now.

7:48: Moving speech just now by the mother of an autistic boy at one of CMS' pre-K centers slated for closure. She said her son never spoke until enrolled in Bright Beginnings, and now is learning to socialize with other children. "My husband told me I was wasting my time by coming down here," she said, sobbing. "But I'm praying I'm not...I'm beginning you not to cancel these classes."

7:30: The public hearing is nearing the home stretch. More speakers now are pointing to what they see as racial and socioeconomic inequities in the budget cuts. Levester Flowers, head of the Save our Schools group that fought against the closure of Waddell High, said he counted $35 million in proposed cuts "all coming from one section of the community." Veronie Gamble, a Waddell supporter, told the board: "It seems as if you guys are attacking the children who need help most."

6:50: Kelly Stevens, a grandmother who says she struggled to learn to read in school, gave an emotional plea for Bright Beginnings. Comparing her own shattered self-esteem as a child to that of her 5-year-old grandchild, she said Bright Beginnings and other preschool programs are critical to keeping today's children from the fate she suffers. "I know it's hard," she told board members. "The money--where does it come from? I don't know, but does it have to come from the people who need it most?" The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she returned to her seat.

6:37: CMS officials planned to stream tonight's meeting online, but they've just sent word that they're having difficulties and it isn't working at the moment. Will update when word comes that the connection's been fixed.

6:34: Many speakers who've signed up are here to speak on behalf of Bright Beginnings. One of the first, Annabelle Suddreth, says her nephew went from a struggling elementary school student to a thriving middle schooler with the help of solid help in preschool. Suddreth, head of A Child's Place, a program for homeless children, asked the board to postpone its decision until later this spring when it will have a better sense of its budget options. Board members haven't seemed inclined to do that, but a long line of Bright Beginnings supporters are apparently ready to make a last-ditch attempt to change their minds.

6:19: Blanche Penn, the community activist who usually delivers fiery condemnations of the school board's cuts to minority and low-income schools, was one of the first speakers on the budget cuts. She was surprisingly polite, noting that others had asked her to "be nice." She told the board: "We hope you will think hard and long about all our schools...not only your districts and your friends."

6:05 The board meeting is underway, with a full house in attendance at the Government Center. Activists, educators and parents with young children in tow have taken up nearly every seat, as well as much of the two balconies. Security getting in seemed tighter than usual, perhaps not surprising given the emotions the millions in cuts have generated.


Carol said...

Is the stream online or has it been cancelled? Do you know?

Ann Doss Helms said...

Trying to get an answer on webstreaming.

Carol said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Observer, for the link to nowhere!

therestofthestory said...

Now watching Mr. Ellis. Why do most of the public believe these people when it is proven what they are telling is not the truth?

wiley coyote said...

Ms. Suddreth,

Bright Beginnings ia a pre-K program so how could your nephew go from Bright Beginnings, do poorly in elementary school and "thrive in middle school"?

It seems to me that is a perfect example of the failure of this program and why it should be terminated.

He should have thrived in elementary school as well.

Eliminate excuses.

Anonymous said...

Just had to cut it off. Could not take it anymore.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Sorry, 6:54. CMS pulled off live webstreaming last time. They assured us they were ready to roll this week. But anyone who works with technology knows things go wrong.

Anonymous said...

I feel for these parents, but unless Gorman is forced to do more sensible things like pay-cuts and furloughs (which he CAN do, he just doesn't want to), something has to go.

Or as a community we have to own up to the fact that educating kids costs money. And raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Rose is on to something.. What about outsourcing catering, janitorial, & transportation!

Carol said...

Yes, things go wrong in technology all the time (trust me, I know.) But if this were a CLT law firm, it would have been fixed by 6:15pm. Not criticism, just observation...

Anonymous said...

Leave it to Gorman and company to think so much of themselves that they kept their meeting date for the State of the Union address day and the meeting is still going... kinda' sad... no matter your politics...

Anonymous said...

What about TNTP and TFA hires??? Any talk on that??

Eric Frazier said...

Anon 9:39 -- no debate about TFA or TNTP yet. Doubt that will happen unless a board member asks a question about it.

Anonymous said...

Did I hear correctly that Gorman said they have schedule models that will allow for all teachers to have 45 minutes of planning? Our teachers don't get that now with a shorter day and more staff members. And will special area teachers and support staff also get 45 minutes? Our admin tells us we don't have to have planning time.

wiley coyote said...


Postponing the vote on Bright Beginnings does nothing.

You have a $100 million dollar deficit.

Make the hard choices and cuts now. A week or two won't make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Why is the public not questioning why CMS continues to cut teaching and instructional positions, like Guidance Counselors and Librarians, that directly impact education of our children? Why hire TFA and TNTP and layoff NC Certified Teachers? My educator friends at elementary level don't get lunch and planning breaks and spend hours outside of the school day on school work. Equity? When middle and high school have planning and prep time? How does that save money?
Board members rebuking public speakers? Did you forget who elected them to be good stewards and put children first?

Anonymous said...

What is he talking about? Disney World, this tall to ride, three year olds on roller coasters?

Anonymous said...

It's past time for Gorman to go. He is arrogant and short with his answers to the School Board. He says that he has run out of ideas. We need someone else who is willing to keep researching innovative ideas even when it seems he or she has reached a dead end. Are any of the School Board members willing to start talking about getting rid of Gorman? Three At Large Seats are open this year. We need new Board Members and a new superintendent with new ideas. If you keep putting the same people in leadership roles with the same ideas we get the same results. UNACCEPTABLE!!

Anonymous said...

Charlotte will not have a "world class" city with high employment if we continue to cut education, libraries, and other services -- that's what industry looks for when relocating here.

Anonymous said...

Joe White where are you?

Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of the stalling tactics? How is delaying the Bright Beginnings vote by 2 more weeks going to help anything? If BB is bumped to Tier 4, what will replace it in the current model?

Anonymous said...

The obviously scripted exchanges between Eric Davis and Dr. Gorman make me want to barf. I guess he is taking Moira Quinn's place. And Trent Merchant - could he be more arrogant.

Anonymous said...

I agree. It's time to unseat some of these arrogant jerks on the school board who are cluess and only have their political interest in mind.

Anonymous said...

Several comments: Watching the BM last night gave me nightmares. I tossed and turned for the students, the parents, and teachers. I just kept praying for God to remove it from my thoughts.

To Wiley Coyote who says that Bright Beginnings is a failure. Wiley, I teach at a CMS high school. Just out of curiosity, I asked several of my students ,“who attended Pre-k?”. I had read by now, the first wave of Pre-k students would be in 12th grade. I kid you not! My students who are top in the school (IB), polite, and high achievers went to pre-K. One young man just had an interview with Yale, another has been accepted into Morehouse, and one who plans to major in medicine has an interview with Wake the last of this month. Teachers, try this and see what your findings are.

Last comment: I am disappointed as one speaker mentioned last night, that Dr. Gorman is not an "Educational Visionary". This is why states such as New York and Washington D.C were not comfortable having non -educators run their schools. Superintendents such as Dr. Gorman do fine if there is plenty of money available for consultants, and Educational Theory to ponder, but when money is tight, they falter. They only know how to cut. He has made it clear, he will not fight for solutions that will foster higher solid opportunities for learning. That he does not have any better solutions than the ones on the table. However, he has traveled to Raleigh several times to get permission to take teacher’s salaries so that he can fund his Pay For Performance.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 11:56:
Perhaps the "scripted exchange" between Dr. Gorman and Eric Davis (and I agree it was obviously scripted) had to occur because there is so much misinformation floating around out there--misinformation that only increases distrust. For instance, the exchange explained why the system cannot legally take certain actions (like across the board pay cuts which many have suggested). This system is so big that much of what we "know" about the system is based on rumor not fact. (Not the fault of reporters--just the nature of dealing with such a big system).

therestofthestory said...

6:17 am. Thaks for your comments and I understand where you are coming from. However, the BOE was warned of this 2 years ago and decided to conitnue on like it was Christmas. Well it is January and the credit cards are due to be paid. The non-urban schools have been feeling this pain for years now. See news article that starts Myers Park High Schol 137 classes over 35 students. Also, the county is able to lose its credit rating because of the irrresponsible construction of schools in the inner city following the last court case. Funny how we were promised this would fix the achievemeent gap but it has not moved.

Additionally, 30,000 Mecklenburg residents are still without jobs from the economic downturn and Jennifer's playbook is no more imaginative than to talk about raising taxes. I will continue my other soapbox rant. The feds are broke. The state is broke. The county is broke. What do you not understand?

Anonymous said...

6:17 AM
You say that you asked your students "who attended Pre-K?", and your top achievers did. I think your question instead should have been--who attended Bright Beginnings Pre-K? Pre-k is not necessarily Bright Beginnings--most often it is private, paid for by parents. I would expect that students that attended private Pre-K would probably function well in school, because most likely they come from education oriented families. And the family background is primarily what would put them on the path to be successful students with wide college choices (that path including among many other things Pre-K). This is not to say that Bright Beginnings students' parents do not care about their education or that these students cannot be just as successful as wealthier students, but I don't think you can make a blanket statement that pre-k is the sole producer of strong achievement. So, in fact, did you ask those students who are candidates for Yale, Morehouse, Wake, etc. if they attended Pre-K, or did you ask them specifically if they attended Bright Beginnings?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mellisa Smith and Kelly Stevens,

I've lived your painful tears after my child was diagnosed with a learning disability at a private preschool. Thanks to intensive early intervention and continued educational therapy through CMS and private schooling, in 3 years my child will Begin a Bright college career.

On behalf of those of us in the shadows of LD's, thank you.

"Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone."
- Martina Navratilova


Anonymous said...

Some People With Learning Disabilities

(Or Attention Deficit Disorder)

Albert Einstein
Nelson Rockefeller
Thomas Edison
Sylvester Stallone
Gen. George Patton
Wright Brothers
Leonardo da Vinci
John F. Kennedy
Whoopi Goldberg
Bruce Jenner
Gen. Westmoreland
Tom Cruise
Eddie Rickenbacker
Charles Schwab
Henry Winkler
Harry Belafonte
Danny Glover
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Walt Disney
John Lennon
Robin Williams
Steve McQueen
Greg Louganis
Louis Pasteur

Anonymous said...

More people with learning disabilities:

Agatha Christie
Hans Christian Andersen
Auguste Rodin
Walt Disney
Winston Churchill
Jackie Stewart
George C. Scott
Winston Churchill
Werner von Braun
Tom Smothers
Henry Ford
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Suzanne Somers
Robert Kennedy
Lindsay Wagner
Jules Verne
George Bernard Shaw
Alexander Graham Bell
Magic Johnson
Woodrow Wilson
Carl Lewis

Anonymous said...

9:15 AM

Ted Kaczynski and the nutty professor who shot and killed a bunch of her colleagues because she did not receive tenure attended HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

wiley coyote said...

To Anon 6:17...

Your statement about your students doesn't quantify or validate any success with Bright Beginnings.

CMS and Gorman have stated flat out that there is no data to know whether the program has had an effect on students graduating now and earlier studies show there isn't much difference and in some cases ther BB students did worse than their peers in the 3rd grade.

My son is a senior, didn't get into BB because WE, as parents, taught him early on to read and write. He speaks both Japanese and Spanish fluently, also takes Honors and AP courses. He started first grade earlier than most kids his age. He just turned 17 and will graduate in June.

The money that has been thrown at this program is not justified.

This is part of the overall problem with public education and has been for 40 years. Some educrat coming up with a bright idea that in the end doesn't do any better job of educating kids than if the program was shelved.

I was married to a teacher once for 12 years and shook my head at all of the "revolutionary programs" some Doctor of Education would come up with, have it implemented, only to have the program shelved a year or two later.

Same entitlemnt(s) and excuses, different day.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Rose has been advocating outsourcing janitorial services for quite some time.

The problem is, no one at CMS has been listening and I'm convinced CMS would like to take full credit for implementing Nicholas's idea (i.e., intellectual property) should they ultimately decided to outsource some services which, oddly enough, is now under consideration.

BTW- Some school systems outsource the management of magnet schools and allow other outside districts to buy in. The problem is, in most cases an educational management system for magnet schools is only in charge of operating 4- 7 magnet schools, not the mind boggling 38 offered through CMS. Often, these magnet schools will hire non-certified teachers (with B.A.'s in their subject area) who may only work part-time and can bypass the usual quagmire of bureaucracy know as our public school system. These magnet schools can also boot out students who are not fully committed to the program back to their home school and be more selective as far as who they allow in making sure students meet minimum academic criteria and behavioral standards prior to acceptance.

Ann Doss Helms said...

6:17, I would love to talk to some of the BB alums who are seniors. Please e-mail me at ahelms@charlotteobserver.com or call 704-358-5033 if you can connect me with these young adults.

Anonymous said...

Ann and Eric,
I heard Dr. Gorman say last night that Bright Beginnings programs for exceptional children were not on the chopping block. Yet many parents of disabled children were making appeals to the board to save Bright Beginnings. Why has it not been made clear exactly how the Bright Beginning cuts were going to work. It of course sounds tragic to have services for disabled children cut and makes great sound bites. But if I heard Dr. Gorman correctly that is not what is going to happen.

Anonymous said...


Good question.

However, one of the reasons our family eventually pulled our EC labeled child out of CMS was because they were labeled "EC" - a highly stigmatizing label with potential long-term psychological consequences (in my opinion).

The definition of a learning disability is having a 15 point gap between your IQ and your performance. A learning disability is NOT the same as having a low IQ. Our child has an above average IQ but was diagnosed with a learning disability at age 5. Again, thanks to early intervention and continued educational therapy, our child qualified for DUKE TIP recognition for gifted students in 4th grade. However, our well behaved child's EC label was treated like leprosy by many CMS parents who opposed having EC "inclusion" students in their little "gifted" Joey's classroom.

The well-know private school (not Fletcher) our child now attends doesn't label our child who recently came home with a 3.6 GPA report card and will be headed to college in 3 years after climbing some daunting academic mountains.

If my child were in the Bright Beginnings program, I would not want them attending a school exclusively for children with the stigmatizing EC "disabled" label. Also, a lot of LD's aren't picked up on until a child reaches the age of 5 or 6.

Our other child was labeled "gifted" according to CMS. Don't get me going here. He is attending a very good college next year but it isn't in the league of Princeton. I love the degrees of "gifted-ness" our educational system encompasses. God help the "average" kid.

Obviously, there is a broad spectrum of children who fall under the EC label with disabilities far more severe than our child's but this is our story.

Anonymous said...

Gorman needs to take Rhonda Lennon on the road as his puppet. I have never seen more butt kissing as Rhonda does to Gorman. I guess next year she will sit in his lap and not in the chair beside him. As for the office cuts she talked about it's not enough cuts. Why do we still have learning centers with 5-10 employees in each. Go in a Learning Center someday and just see what a joke they are.
As for Bright Beginnings I vote close them all and send the 4 year olds to the Head Start and More at Four programs that way Washington will pay for the whole program.
Why does a 4 year old need to be in school for 7 hours a day anyway.
I felt as a parent it was MY JOB to get my kids ready for school and not send them away for 7 hours a day.