The Observer launches its online pay wall -- excuse me, the Observer Plus digital package -- on Wednesday. Some of you have said that will end your relationship with CharlotteObserver.com and this blog.
I hope that's not true for most of you, and not just for financial reasons. If you care enough to read Your Schools, you're part of the dialogue about education in the Charlotte region.
I launched this blog in July 2010, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools began its Comprehensive Review of Something They Couldn't Quite Define. I believed (correctly, as it turned out) that process would generate far more data, news and discussion points than we could handle in print.
Pretty quickly, I realized this forum would be more of a discussion group than a lecture series. Since its debut, there have been more than 893,000 page views and almost 15,400 comments.
|"Boo! CMS stinks and so do you!"|
But the good stuff outweighs that. Comments on this blog have helped me break important news on testing, technology and personnel changes. I'll always remember live-blogging from Peter Gorman's January 2011 announcement that he planned to cut 1,500 jobs, with readers sending me crucial data that CMS had emailed to employees but "forgotten" to include in the media handouts.
More recently, a reader tipped me off that there would be no retesting on state exams this year. The comment implied I was an idiot for not already knowing that. But you know what? Good information delivered with a sour tone is still good information. The result was a well-read follow-up post.
You challenge me -- and each other -- on sensitive and painful topics. But we also have fun. After all, the regulars include a guy who uses Looney Tunes aliases and a woman who showed up at a school board meeting dressed as a cow. If you missed it, it's worth scrolling to the bottom of the comments on a post last week to see a tongue-in-cheek collection drive to keep Wiley Coyote online and an extended riff on what it might be like to get your education news from CMS and the (now defunct) Rhino Times.
About those options. Here's my view on the alternatives, with no pretense that it's unbiased.
You can get education news free from the broadcast folks, but you'll lose a lot of depth and detail.
You can rely on CMS' beefed-up efforts to spread the word on itself. Terry Abbott, the consultant who just did a communications study for the district, has urged school districts to use "the slow death of great American newspapers" to take control of education coverage. With due respect to Abbott (and Monty Python), we're not dead yet, and I don't think that's an option most readers will settle for.
You can create your own blogs to air your opinions. Or you can find an existing one that suits your views, whether that's the conservative Pundit House or Pamela Grundy's "Seen from the 'Rock." But you won't get the audience or the diversity of opinions that the Observer pulls together.
After almost 11 years of keeping an eye on CMS, I think I bring a pretty good value to the party. I know you readers do too. So here's hoping we'll stay together to ring in another interesting year.