Monday, November 26, 2012

School partnerships aren't easy

Expect a renewed call for partnerships when Superintendent Heath Morrison unveils his plan for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this evening.

If  Coach Joe White were still on the school board, he might give this observation his trademark "Duh!"  It's pretty obvious that helping kids succeed takes support beyond the schoolhouse.  Charlotte thrives on partnerships, and CMS has a history of working with volunteers and outside groups.

Those of us who have been around awhile know there have been some impressive collaborations. But we've also seen grand coalitions rolled out with fanfare,  only to fizzle.

Last week,  Morrison spoke with Enlace (en-LAH-say, Spanish for "connection"),  a group of Latin American advocates.  Many represent agencies that work with young people.  The Q&A session displayed a great desire to work together,  but also illustrated some of the challenges.

Audience members talked about how difficult it can be to get CMS staff to listen to outside agencies -- or even to find the right person to talk to.  "For nonprofits,  especially minority nonprofits,  working with CMS can be a nightmare,"  one said.

Morrison said groups that want to help can get caught up in turf battles,  especially if two potential collaborators are competing for the same grant.  And he said outside agencies sometimes prepare grant proposals for working in schools without consulting CMS.

"If there were easy answers to this work,  there wouldn't be a need for great people to come do it,"  Morrison said.

Henry
He said his staff is working to make the CMS website easier to navigate,  and he's thinking about creating a help desk to provide personal guidance. But his big move is launching a department of community partnerships and family engagement. Communications director LaTarzja Henry will officially make the move to that post Dec. 1.

It's not a new idea to put someone in charge of volunteers and partnerships.  But strengthening these connections is one of Morrison's signature issues,  and he says he's seldom seen anyone as passionate about this kind of work as Henry.  "LaTarzja has a heart as big as this state," he told me.

I've worked with Henry for more than a decade,  spanning a vast array of triumphs,  troubles and change in CMS.  Henry takes the work very seriously,  herself not so much.  Maybe because my own style is similar,  I've found we can work together and stay focused on the big issues,  even when we don't get exactly what we want from each other. That seems like a good start for building partnerships across this sprawling and fractured community.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

The greatest partnership needed? PARENTS doing their job and backing that teacher!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Parents who cause all of the problems here in CMS will not do better.CMS has reached the tipping point.
No amount of money or partnerships will help.
Sorry guys but that is the truth.

Anonymous said...

With respect to you Ann and the great job you do, Ms. Henry is the wrong person for this position. The community just doesn't trust her. Mark my words, under her leadership (and I say that tounge in cheek) this office will just become another Black issues pulpit.
Which is a shame since we need more than that.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:40
You are wasting your breath.

BolynMcClung said...

THE WOMAN SAID, “YOU’RE NOT WRITING ON THE BOARD WHAT WE ARE SAYING!”

Partnerships and collaboration (not the French WWII kind) are the Charlotte way of doing things. Even when the Supreme Court rained on the majority’s education parade in the 1970’s, locals found a way to make it a coffee-klatch and an opportunity for “getting to know one and another.” But in reality this school district has problems that likely dwarf solutions based on mutual assurance.

Two years ago I sat at a conference table of parents who were about to see their neighborhood schools closed; supposedly because of the budget but they suspected otherwise. The CMS staffer leading the conversation was facing about twenty parents who had been asked to “share” their thoughts.

After ten frustrating minutes of a meeting only allotted twenty, one of the women stood-up and said, “You’re not writing on the board what we are saying.” And she was correct. The facilitator had filtered everything into a strange shorthand that would only mean something back at the office. But to the participants it looked like bull; no, it was BS.

The challenge for Dr. Morrison tonight will be to convince enough folks that coffee-klatches and one-way conversations are DOA. That is such a foreign idea to Mecklenburgers. We do exist for a sort of harmony and then we do expect a limit number of the same old people to do the work.

I’ll be at Blumenthal tonight, not so much to hear the Superintendent, but to watch the crowd. Because the solution is not so much with him but with them.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness everyone can still move away from the problem...

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 2000s a group of child advocacy non-profits created "The United Agenda for Children". I was asked to be on the steering committee. At the first meeting I attended over an hour was spent discussing whether the project should be called the "United Agenda for Children" or the "United Agenda for All Children". Watching these non-profit "leaders" haggle over semantics was eye-opening for me, but I soon learned this was pretty typical. Another debate later occurred over the use of the term "houses of worship" versus "faith houses" (a term unfamiliar to many of us). The terms "churches" or "temples", of course, were not considered politically correct.
Sharon Starks

Ann Doss Helms said...

Sharon, that United Agenda thing was one of the fizzles I was thinking about. Good intentions, little or no result that I'm aware of.

6:40, I'm curious why you say that. I've never seen Henry push a racial agenda. Of course I don't see everything she does, either. Is there a factual basis for your prediction, or are you basing it on her race?

Bill Stevens said...

Ann, in my time with CMS, partnerships have been widely pushed, widely talked about but generally fall flat on their face. The ones that have endured are rather low key but produce solid results. Typically they are ones that provide tutoring, clothes drives (that even include for the mother) and PTSA donations. Most of the ones you are refering to are those that look to get some money from somewhere else (like a grant or the city) and try to become someone's stage for glory. I will not forget when the city decided to do an informal audit on some of its after school programs and found a huge descrepancy between the enrollment (how the organization was paid by) and the actual attendance. Clearly this was just another case of some community people finding a golden egg and fleecing it for as much as they could to line their own pockets.

BolynMcClung said...

Sharon,


While you’re reminiscing over semantics, these four Morrison Audits, reminded me of the day the School Board held the public meeting on the 2005 CMS TaskForce report. They spent the first part of the meeting debating whether to “accept” the report and if that had some implication that they were actually going to do something with it.

I believe the current board will not be a roadblock to what Dr. Morrison plans to accomplish. A lot of the public verbal jousting of previous boards has been replaced with some pretty good committee work where members seem more inclined to give-way to the best idea and most effective wording at the table; no matter the source.

Bolyn McClung
Pineville

Todd Isaacs said...

If you are able to put your children into a private school you should do so asap....

Anonymous said...

Ann, Do you REALLY think Mrs. Henry is going to do anything to help WHITE children in CMS? I mean those childrens parents fund the system. This is a payback for closing the schools everyone knows this. Kojo beat the drum and its not going to help support CMS. Grades are dropping , Teacher Morale ? Lets just say that was a 6 figure waste of paper study. I mean bring the heat and burn the meat on this one its getting old.

Wiley Coyote said...

....and over the the same past decade have partnerships moved the needle on graduation rates and the achievment gap?

Or is it just more of the same touchy-feely-feel-good crap?

Diversity and political correctness driven mantras are killing America.

Personally, I prefer taxpayers over the gag-inducing, feel good, politically correct term, "stakeholders".

Anonymous said...

Two other interesting tidbits from the United Agenda saga:
The culmination of the project was a large public meeting at the former Merchandise Mart during which groups of citizens discussed and prioritized education, health, and safety issues for children. From these group discussions lists of priorities were drawn up for each area. To the surprise of many on the steering committee, under education "close to home" schools ranked very high with all demographics and diversity barely received a mention. One of the non-profit leaders then suggested we omit the close to home priority since "ordinary citizens really don't understand education". Thankfully Ann Udall, who was the lead facilitator, quashed that idea immediately.
Also, right after the United Agenda group presented their findings the UNC Chapel Hill Center for Civil Rights published a paper purporting to prove that the end of busing was harming minorities in Charlotte. The paper (which was initially withdrawn because it used faulty data) stated that many groups in Charlotte, including the United Agenda for Children, were calling for a return to busing. When this incorrect assertion was pointed out to the steering committee most, but not all, of the group agreed to sign a letter to the Center for Civil Rights requesting a correction.
Sharon

Anonymous said...

I am a staff member at a school that has a very diverse population, and partners up with parents (yes, I said PARENTS), community agencies and local churches. We have some of the highest test scores in the district, and the HIGHEST test scores of any population of students who have such a diverse population ( particularly those who come from low-income homes.) Whereas I think community partnerships are EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to garnering volunteers, you FIRST have to start with parents backing you up. And, I do believe, Parent University is one of the programs that will be underneath Henry's helm. I know it is flawed, but perhaps she can do some good with it.

Bill Stevens said...

Wiley you are correct about it being a touchy felly thing. It would appear to be about this demographich drawing as much attention to itself as possible. And you are rigth that no one has been able or willing to try to see if this effort really produced any measureable results. As many posters here including me have pointed out, there are too many variables in a child's environement to say any one item has driven any improvement.

All this effort seems to do is one, allow this demographic to see they are not forgotten, two provides a stage for persons wanting the public "pat on the back" for all to see and three, provides some finanacial gain for some to line their pockets on the backs of the urban children.

Ann Doss Helms said...

9:13, in 10+ years I've seen no evidence that Henry is anti-white (and you'd think I might have noticed).

Wiley Coyote said...

Bill,

Partnerships that help ALL kids, no matter what school they go to or what their household income is are great. I have no problem with partnership, but it's the carving out of certain segments that I am against.

If you can't supply goods, time or funds for all students, then they shouldn't be allowed.

Project LIFT is the poster child for the touchy-feely-feel-good crowd.

Anonymous said...

I served on a CMS PARENT task force committee when Ann was a CO education reporter rookie. My children's principal asked me to help redraw a student assignment map at the tail end of federally mandated court ordered busing. The idea was to facilitate a working PARTNERSHIP between CMS and community members (or stakeholders as we're called now). What a nightmare. I can't begin to tell you. What a God awful nightmare. Had I had any clue what I was getting myself into, I never would have agreed to serve on this committee. I came out of this experience convinced that involved, educated and engaged PARENTS can create as much havoc in CMS as anyone else. School partnerships aren't easy? Duh.

Alicia Durand

Ann Doss Helms said...

So, Wiley, what do you think of, say, the East Meck STAR teacher project, where an alum gave a chunk of money and raised more to support teachers just at that school? Or the truckload of churches and businesses that partner with one school? I'm trying to figure out who really has the ability to make a meaningful investment in 159 schools serving 141,000+ kids.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Alicia, flashback time! That's when we met, right?

Anonymous said...

Sharon,
I remember Ann Udall. In the spirit of the Christmas season, I'm going to leave it at that. I'm certain there are people directly and indirectly associated with the CMS-Parent task force committee I served on who won't be baking holiday cookies for me either.

Alicia

Anonymous said...

Ann,
Yes, in the Smithfield cafe-gym-a-torium!
Alicia

Wiley Coyote said...

I believe they should not be allowed. It is public education, not private.

Again, Project LIFT is a prime example. What of the other low income, underperforming children and schools in the system that don't get a dime, while these philanthropists feel good about themselves so they can sleep at night?

But then again, we have a President with the midset that nearly 50% of the population who pay NO Federal taxes is "fair".

Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the new truth.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”....Joseph Goebbels

Ann Doss Helms said...

My first five years on this beat it drove me nuts that bond campaigns and boundary-drawing for new schools ate so much of my time. I guess it's a "be careful what you wish for" scenario -- I'm glad to have less of that but sure did not want the recession! Now we'll see what happens as things pick up and we have a bond campaign with only one education reporter -- yikes.

Anonymous said...

1)I was a "Partner in Education" representative in Atlanta when my kids were in public elementary school - as both a parent and employee I was able to broker a direct relationship with the school and also include schools in the same area, aka zone, that were at-risk and did not have this inside representation. That is some of what it takes to get the one on one, brand identifying and $ contributing partnerships. I worked with a regional coordinator, the PTA, and the principals...and I did it as part of my employer's community philanthropy objectives. Ms. Henry should learn from that playbook that wide areas and various populations need very local representation and support - not central decisions.

2) A few years ago, a member of Congress made arrangements to visit a CMS school in person to present a student with a national award. Ms. Henry was informed - no one from CMS central PR or communication acknowledged the visit, noone from central was there for the photo op. It was an embarassment for the student, family, principal, and basically all of CMS to not make sure that this representative was acknowledged, and it took a personal phone call from the parent to smooth things over. That congressional office does a great deal to partner with private schools in the area, and has offered highly visible page positions for high school students from private schools. This was a unique opportunity for Ms. Henry and CMS to build a bridge between CMS students and a national profile in DC...It is known what happened and congressional offices like to stick to private schools these days because they are received properly.

I hope Ms. Henry gets the picture that if this is really going to be a viable position, and not just a parked one, then ALL of the communities in CMS expect proper acknowledgement of partnership needs - and that partners themselves expect proper acknowledgement.

Anonymous said...

Ann,
Although spending your first 5 years covering student assignment controversies drove you nuts, it's what dominated CMS. You know and I know our community is still grappling with the fall-out directly related to decades of court ordered busing. I think forced busing is the worst thing we've ever inflicted on school children. Others disagree. I attended an arts magnet high school in a different state that was established in 1972 as an alternative to forced busing. It was a great experience. No, it was a remarkable experience that still influences who I am today. 10 years ago, trying to "do the right thing" as far as CMS boundary lines were concerned proved impossible.

Anonymous said...

cont.
Alicia

Anonymous said...

11:49--I noticed right off the bat when we came to Charlotte that there was little publicity or celebration of high achieving kids either through central office or through the media (perhaps because central office didn't get the publicity out). Granted there were awards dinners for top graduating seniors but that was about it. I'm afraid this continues today and this of course can lead to the public's perception that CMS does not have high achieving students.
Several years ago I noticed in the on-line edition of the Observer that CMS had a high number of Merit Scholars for that particular year. I looked for an article in the print edition the next day--didn't appear. I contacted the reporter (not Ann) and he said I'd have to contact his editor if I wanted to see the Merit Scholar list published. So I did. The article finally showed up and I received a note from the reporter saying "Now you can see your kid's name in the paper" or something to that affect. I wrote back that my child had graduated 5 years before--I wasn't looking for any publicity for the Starks' family. I just thought the public should see the good side of CMS (and high achievers should get some recognition).

I know there was lots of resentment in parts of Charlotte when suburban schools finally began being built. I often wondered if that had anything to do with lack of publicity for achievers--when Myers Park and West Charlotte no longer had a lock on academics.

Bill Stevens said...

Ann, I know with a new superintendent in town, your job is overwhelming right now. But please before the per pupil expenditures report comes out, try to get an update on the overcrowded classrooms in the suburban schools. Kids are still sitting on the floor. Desks still have the classrooms so overcrowded that the teacher can not walk around and help students. Parents are still frustrated to the point of hiring tutors so their child will come out of CMS with a "meaningful" diploma.

Heath has been thoroughly snowballed by the ivory tower staff and principals.

Anonymous said...

12:24
A merit scholarship is an impressive academic accomplishment that should warrant as much coverage as the local winning football team. I think there's some truth to your theory about Myers Park and West Charlotte High.

Fortunately, the CO does a much better job than it did covering all types of school achievements not only for CMS but for private and charter schools in the area as well. The series "Young Achievers" is about as positive and inspiring as it gets.

I don't think the public has the perception that there's a dearth of high academic achievers in CMS. For years, CMS has touted it's top 10% of students who seem to outscore students everywhere else. Some CMS schools and programs compete head-to-head with Charlotte's most elite private schools. I do think the public has the perception that a lot of CMS schools aren't making the grade in ensuring that all high achievers have access to a quality educational setting that enables them to succeed to their full potential. CMS has "good" schools and "bad" schools - at least as long as I've lived here. Personally, I think CMS could do a significantly better job meeting the needs of "average" kids. Top performing kids and kids who struggle appear to be the primary focus. My children attend/attended CMS and private school (6 years at both). There are a lot of parents with children in private school who just want their average kid to do well. It's surprising how many private school parents also utilize CMS when CMS has it's act together.

Alicia

Wiley Coyote said...

Bill,

Just get someone to donate a couple of million dollars to those overcrowded schools and the problem is solved.

Wait...I forgot. That's for taxpayers to pay for.

We're all "stakeholders" when it comes to underperforming and poverty schools, but somehow that same mantra evaporates in schools like you just mentioned that are overcrowded.

Anonymous said...

Per CMS policy if a gift is more that $10,000 it cannot be directed to a certain school by a donor. SO LIFT of course violates this , BUT if one white school tried to test the limits of this downtwon would raise alot of noise. White noise it would be. This is the reason folks dont partner with their home schools.

Anonymous said...

2:32
I'm having flashbacks of the "involved" PARENT Equity Committee and donated ballet barres.

Anonymous said...

Anne, in response at 10:24, if you or anyone at the Observer happened to "detect" racial bias, would you actually report on it?
Seems the Observer was VERY quiet on the tax reval situation until the election was over, when your company finally came out against the process.
Why is Harry Jones not being taken to task by the "watchdog" of the community?
Many more whites were hurt by this process, yet not a peep from the paper.
Why are different amounts of money spent on students depending on the tone of their skin? Please explain this in simple terms so your audience can understand this inequity that never seems to be addressed.

Wiley Coyote said...

4:02...

The Observer posts racial bias about once every two weeks or so.

Just read Fannie Flono.

Anonymous said...

More partnerships? What kind of partnerships? How about we work on getting parents involved first! Also, Henry... REALLY! Huge mistake!

Ann Doss Helms said...

4:02, we've reported a number of news stories that have pointed at Harry Jones as the one responsible for problems in the county. And I think our editorial board has questioned whether he should stay in the job, but I'd have to check that after I get out from under the 100-day report tonight.

Wiley Coyote said...

Does that 100 day report include the school lunch numbers?

Bill Stevens said...

Thanks Boyln for the information about the where and when of Heath's 100 day "coming down from the Mount". I wonder if we the unwashed are privileged enough to attend?

Anonymous said...

Well, we did get an invitation to a Block Party the night before EOG's last Spring. The organizer got a new position. Bodes well.

Anonymous said...

From the humble beginings of a party planner to the Asst. Super of Community PR. Another Dr. Ellis making over $150,000 as they move into another deck chair.

Where is my invitation? Latarza

Latarza

Anonymous said...

Is there any other position in CMeS where a black woman can do less and be paid more?

Ann Doss Helms said...

Wiley, it does not. I was promised those numbers more than a week ago. Still nagging.

Anonymous said...

My crystal ball prediction...

CMS' FRL (ED) population rises 1.5-2.0% over last year. Do we REALLY need another CO headline about this?

Wiley,
I'm NOT suggesting your issues over FRL aren't valid. The problem (as I see it) is that FRL is a federal government issue and not a local school government issue. I'm fairly sure CMS was told they are not allowed to audit FRL (ED) numbers. The same holds true for CMS' ESL (ELL) population. Public schools are required by federal law to educated any child who shows up at the front, back, or side door via swimming across the Rio De Janeiro or parachuting out of a plane.

Alicia

*Lingo for newbies:
1. FRL = Free and Reduced Lunch = ED = Economically Disadvantage.

2. ESL = English as a Second Language = ELL = English Language Learners.

3. Wiley = humor = love.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and any Canadian tobogganing over the border is entitled to an American education too. I have no idea what the Inuit's in Alaska do when they get fed up with NCLB and over-the-top standardized testing mandates.

Alicia

Wiley Coyote said...

School systems are allowed to audit a 3% sample and while the NSLP is a Federal program, it most certainly affects all LEAs.

Many times I have pointed out the fact not only in CMS, but other school systems around the country, have more kids receiving the benefit than should be.

CMS sample audits have found up to 60% do not qualify based on information provided. The USDA overpays benefits by $1.5 billion dollars per year.

Once a child is designated FRL, ED or whatever politically correct name you want to call it, then these kids get to play sports for free, free AP/IB testing, etc. Also, Title I funds are allocated by the percentage of students on the lunch program.

Lying + cheating + turning a blind eye to it = wasted tax dollars that could go to reducing class sizes and/or targeting more funds to those students who truly qualify for the extra help.

Bill Stevens said...

FRL.. It is interesting that when all the dust settles form the sample audits, it appears the percentage of valid FRL applications closely follow the percentage of DSS processed FRL applications.