Monday, January 14, 2013

Change the bells? Don't bet on it

With the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools magnet lottery ramping up, a parent emailed to ask if CMS would be announcing any changes in school hours,  known as bell schedules.

I asked Superintendent Heath Morrison.  He wasn't ready to give a final answer,  but there was a lot of  "no"  between the lines of his reply.

The background:  During the recession,  CMS added 45 minutes to the time elementary students spend in class and moved some schools to a late schedule, 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.  Those changes let the district rearrange bus routes and save $4 million a year,  with some buses serving four schools on staggered schedules.

This happened before Morrison was hired in April.  He says he started hearing about those changes right away,  and learned that while some like the changes,  the parents and teachers who don't like them really dislike them.  He tapped a group of parents and staff to talk about the issue,  and because they're still working,  Morrison said he isn't ready to close the door on the possibility of 2013-14 bell schedule changes. (Update 6:15 p.m.: Read the minutes of the group's first formal meeting on Paper Trail.)

But Morrison noted that not only would his staff have to put back the $4 million saved,  but the cost for restoring the old hours and bus routes could be $7 million to $11 million in county money.  That's because reducing the efficiency of busing reduces the state reimbursement.  In other words:  Add back the routes at your own expense.

So the question becomes:  Is that the priority for Morrison and the school board if they can get a few million extra dollars from county commissioners?  Morrison may be keeping his options open,  but I'd place a bet on "no."


Anonymous said...

I would like to see some consideration given on the bell schedules of schools that feed into each other, ie: elem. schools that feed into middle schools. I have a 3rd and 7th grader and their schools have the same bell schedule.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I have no problem at all with the longer days. I also have no problem with the longer school year. (Well, ok, except that I'm not being paid more for the extended time.)

On average, the United States goes to school the least amount of time as other comparable nation. And it shows. We are behind. (Ok, there are a few other reasons for that too, like having to educate every student regardless of ability and if they even want to be in school. But that isn't this topic.)

The school year needs to be 220 days a year and don't change back to the shorter schedule.

How about if parents worry more about lessons and homework than extracurricular activities and how they are inconvenienced?

And to my fellow teachers, suck it up!

And yes, I teach the Kindergarteners too and they will be fine. Mom and Dad just need to give them a proper bedtime.

And to 6:47 a.m., there is this newfangled thing called a BUS!

Christine Mast said...

Ann, has CMS ever given you proof that the $4 million they claimed to save, has really happened?

BolynMcClung said...


She should have asked, "Do you believe there is a predictive link between the decisions at CMS and the growth of charter schools?"……….school people love to talk about "predictive links."

One of those predictive links is in the Guiding Principles and states there is one between poverty and low achievement. Could there be a similar predictive link between unsatisfied parents and flight away from CMS? Plenty of evidence is already exists.

Predictive Links List:

Bell Schedule..…..Charters
Class size………..Charters
You name it………Charters

That's the picture. The Bell Schedule was a phenomenon that swept the nation during the recent financial crisis. The change shifted a budget problem at the schoolhouse into the laps of parents. It appears that it is going to be difficult to undo. That's a shame.

It's a shame because CMS can not win the battle to stop the flight to charters if it can't keep its parents happy.

Bolyn McClung

Ann Doss Helms said...

Christine, that's a good question. The transportation budget has been going down the last couple of years, though I'd have to wade back through budgets to check how much. As for specific cause and savings ... hmm. One of the big challenges for me is the state efficiency formula, which seems to be something of a black box (I couldn't even find it online).

Ann Doss Helms said...

Bolyn, on predictive links, did you see today's article citing a link between bad teeth and low academic performance, with some implication that if we just sealed kids' teeth they'd do better? The whole "link" vs. "cause" thing is a perpetual source of confusion (or perhaps distortion).

Christine Mast said...

Ann, I thought you'd asked for this "proof" at some point before, and you'd never received it. Please ask them again.

If Dr. Morrison is basing all this on MONEY, isn't it important that we get "proof" that the savings even materialized?

And how can it cost "more" money to change back to the way it was before? It just doesn't make any sense. If they "saved" $4 million by changing the length of the elementary day and the bell schedules, why wouldn't they only have to "spend" $4 million to put it back to the way it was?

BolynMcClung said...


Predictive links. Yes, I saw the article and wondered.....

....What if it's the teacher that has the bad teeth?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

I hate the whole busing situation, shuttle stops are a joke, I have had to drive my daughter both ways for years because the times are either to late in the morning or she gets off bus before I get off work. I can never be sick, because my daughter won't have any transportation, reevaluate the dumb shuttle stops!!

Missouri said...

So Ann, when did we the taxpayers assumed responsiblity for teeth? By that stretch, would nmot most of these children be better off in boarding houses/orphanages because their "birthers" terat them no better than a source of a larger monthly check from us the taxpayers.

And lastly, if Morrison is going to make decisions based on money/costs/value, when is he going to cut the urban school funding by 1/3?

Anonymous said...

Ann, CMS will never show a money savings in the late bell schedule formula , because they CANNOT. How can it save when you send one empty bus through a neighborhood to pick up 15 kids then turn it around and send back through to pick up another 15 kids in the same neighborhood? Its a formula distance vs time vs space that even CMS can understand. One of the middle schools on late bell time has a 37% teacher turnover rate facts hurt ask Heath that questions. (Carmel Middle) The late bell has too many negatives and very few positives. Thats why most parents take their children to a neighboring school creating more of a mess for CMS. The state will eventually step in when enough folks complain. Keith W. Hurley

texas girl said...

The buses CAN be operated more efficiently. BUT, state funding is based on the number of students signed up for buses sometime during the first month of school so CMS wants as many kids as possible signed up for state funding purposes, even though up to 50% of those kids may never set foot on the bus. CMS operates a .5 mile No Transportation zone. If they were serious and wanted to save money, they would have a .75 or 1 mile No trans zone, with 1 stop per neighborhood and be able to run most buses 3 - 4 schools in the AM's and PM's. The problem is the additional buses running all over the county for magnet school students. Most of these buses are practically empty too. How about consider charging for the Magnet school transportation and start all neighborhood schools between 7:30-9am. That would give the buses the 7 morning and 7 afternoon routes (either 3am and 4pm,or vice versa). It is not rocket science, plug it into the computer! Again, it's the Magnet school busing that costs almost 3x neighborhood school tranportation.

Anonymous said...

57 students is considered a full bus (on most CMS buses that are now running). I have yet to see one bus in South charlotte running with 57 students on it. The CMS transportation department doesn't want to be too efficient because then they'll be out of a job. 50% capacity is what's happening now. UNACCEPTABLE.

Anonymous said...

We moved our 2 high schoolers out of a popular south charlotte high school due to the 7:15am start time, 90 minute block schedule and the overcrowded classrooms. Both of my kids are doing much better and are much happier now. Worth every penny!

Missouri said...

9:44, we all need to press this governor and this legispature to allow you to have a portion of your tax dollars to go with your kids. This is the time to strike for true public education. 2011-2012 only 80.1% of the student sin Mecklenburg COunty went to CMS shools. Couple that with the lousy track record of educating these kids (1200 of 1600 CMS graduates applying to CPCC for 2011-2012 school year required remedial course before earnign college credit) we have a good story to tell.

Anonymous said...

"That's because reducing the efficiency of busing reduces the state reimbursement". Quote from Heath.

Ann, could he please clarify that statement. It makes no sense. As a previous poster notes, state funding is based, in part, by the number of students assigned to a bus (not the actual number of riders). So, basically CMS trans dept bases the routes on faulty info because many parents choose to drive to school to give their kids extra time in the mornings or aft and most HS students carpool or drive to school.

Anonymous said...

to 8:51am Shuttle stops are the way to operate, much more efficient and cost effective. Sorry the stop times don't coincide with your personal work schedule. Or maybe you could send your child to a neighborhood school instead of a Magnet?

Anonymous said...

Elementary school teachers now have a 6.5 hour instructional day, middle and high have a 6 hour day. This inequity leaves elementary teachers (and students) with 90 more hours per year than the older grades.
As for the rest of the world, CMS has more instructional hours per year than almost every country. Other countries may have more days but they are shorter, and they outperform us.
I have two very young elementary students and they go to bed at 7:30. They arrive home from school at 5:00. This schedule is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I thought elem, middle and high school instructional time was all 7 hours.

As far as the elem school day, take out lunch (30mins), recess (30mins), bathroom breaks/transition times (30 mins), packing up 15 mins before aft bell (15mins). That totals up to approx 5.25 hours of actual instructional time during the day at best.

Anonymous said...

At least Pineville elementary school does not start at 7:30am anymore. 8am start time has done wonders for staff and students.

Anonymous said...

My husband, due to the nature of his work gets home at approx 7pm. With the early school start times, my young kids never get to see Dad in the evening and just for a few moments running out to the early morning bus. I would much rather go to a later school and have more evening family time.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher and I am sick of everyone thinking that we don't work enough hours. When I do get to work, I am harrassed by the pricipal and told I need to be in meetings, and all kinds of other things that waste my time. What about the fact the students are out of control as soon as they arrive and it's hard enough to get anything done as it is.

All I see here are bunch of parents who feel that school schedules should be changed to suit them. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Anonymous said...

All of this is nonsense in the first place. All schools should take in and release at the same time. 8:20 and 3:20.

We always hear all matter of reasons for these different times, but it's baseless and should be done away with.

Anonymous said...

9:44 and Missouri,

Thousands of student adjust and adapt to the changes in bell schedules, overcrowding, etc. Public education is what it is, if your kids 9:44 can't cope with that like heck I'll let you take my tax dollars to help pay for that. If you don't like public education provided for you then it's your choice to pay for private school. You can also move to another school system.

Anonymous said...

10:55, I teach at a high school. I have to be outside my door at 6:55am. School is dismissed at 2:15. That is 7 hours and 15 min. if my math is correct. I do get a 25 minutes lunch. I won't count hours working after school because I am sure that we all do that.

Anonymous said...

Missouri wrote, "We all need to press this governor and this legispature to allow you to have a portion of your tax dollars to go with your kids."

Are you serious? I spend close to 40k to send my kids to private school. It is not easy. I make great sacrifices to do so. I surely do not expect the government to help me pay for it.
That would just take more resources from those who cannot afford private school and give it to the wealthiest families who can.

Vouchers are not the way to go.

Missouri said...

12:34, d$$$ right skippy. Mecklenburg County has the highest percentage of students on charter school waiting lists as well as the highest percentage of school age children not in the "government schools". However, the state board of education refuses to permit any more charters that would serve areas where most of these live.

If CMS would get back to educatiing students then we would not be here. You see above where a teacher has commented about all the non-inistructional things they are required to do. Additionally, you will read on the Opinion page today a viewpoint from the KIPP person here in Charlotte. CMS refused to allow KIPP to run a magnet school so they started their own. The results speak for themselves. Too many schools are not run for education. CMS adminstration is too coward to enforce state law and dismiss kids who are not there to be educated. And they distract and disrupt too much for education to happen.

Anonymous said...

11:06 and 12:28 - The CMS website lists instructional day times. High and middle are 6 hours (each class is 90 minutes, 4 classes totals 6 hours). Each level is in school for 7 hours, so the instructional day does not include lunch, class change, bathroom breaks, hall duty, etc. High and middle teachers get 90 minutes for planning, elem teachers do not. I taught in both levels in CMS for 11 years. I had to arrived 7:00 and left 2:30. This included a 90 minute planning block and a 25 minute lunch. That is 7.5 hours total, with 4.5 hours hands on teaching time. Elem teachers arrive at my child's 9:15 school at 8:30, begin teaching at 8:45 when students arrive in their room, and leave at 5:00 since the buses can't all get to school at 4:15. That is 8.5 total hours with a 30 minute break when kids go to specials, at least 6.5 hours of hands on teaching time. This is a huge inequity for teachers and students.

Christine Mast said...

I received the following email response from Mr. Earnest Winston LAST March (3/13/2012):

Good afternoon Ms. Mast,

I hope you are having a great day. Below are responses to your first five questions. We are working on responses to your other questions and will follow up when that information is available.

1) "As reported in a state annual report (during September 2011), there are 87,135 daily riders versus the planned 120,046." Is this "normal" to have missed the projection by over 25%? How often are these figures calculated? Yearly? Quarterly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Do you have more current data available? If so, please forward it.

RESPONSE: The difference between the daily riders versus the planned (or assigned) riders is not a “missed” projection. Pursuant to G.S. 115C 239 through 115C 262 and other applicable laws and policies of the Board of Education, the superintendent or designee shall allocate and assign to the schools the number of buses sufficient to transport all eligible students to the respective schools. The CMS Board of Education’s approved student assignment policy and regulations govern transportation eligibility requirements for students.

Based on these requirements, all eligible students are afforded the opportunity for scheduled transportation services which is reflected in the “planned” count of 120,046 students. Not every student assigned chooses to ride the bus every day and or at all. CMS Transportation provides a tool for families to notify the department if their student(s) is not going to use the yellow bus service; however, the trend reveals most families would like to maintain their child’s bus assignment in the event they will need the services. All updates to needed services are maintained daily in the Transportation Information Management System (TIMS).

An annual state report requires a student ridership count during a specified one week period. This is a physical count of students riding each bus every morning and afternoon. This is considered to be the average daily ridership for that school year and stands at 87,135 students for the 2011-2012 school year.

2) Please send the transportation department's 2011-2012 budget, along with 2010-2011's 'actual' versus 'budget' transportation department data.

Transportation Department Info


2010-2011 Initial Allotments 58,521,071

One Time CMS Allotment for Activity Buses Replaced $1,635,689



Salaries & Benefits $43,186,239

Bus Maintenance/Operating Expenses $13,422,934

Contracted Pupil Transportation $747,252

Facilities, Utilities and Mileage Exp $861,953

Capital & Equip Expense $1,938,382


Projected Budget

2011-2012 Initial Allotment $54,477,854

One Time State Allotment in Dec-to be used for fuel $3,721,124

$58,198,978 subject to change

3) "On average, the perimeters for the NTZ’s range is up to ½ mile. " Are you stating that some bus routes have LESS than 1/2 mile to the school? How many routes is that, and where?

RESPONSE: There are currently two bus runs transporting all students less than .5 mile one way. It is the same run morning and afternoon serving 48 Albemarle Road Middle School students. The stop is on the corner of Regal Oaks and Winding Cedar.

Christine Mast said...

4) "Increasing the number of these zones and/or adopting the maximum distance by NC law (1.5 miles)..." Why not look into increasing the distance to 3/4 mile or 1 mile? No one suggested going from 1/2 mile to the maximum allowable distance of 1-1/2 miles.

RESPONSE: A thorough impact analysis (attached) for implementation of a no transportation zone (NTZ) at every CMS school was presented to the CMS Board of Education in February 2009. This comparative analysis included three separate scenarios based on NTZ distances of .5 mile, 1 mile and 1.5 miles and reveals the potential reduction of transportation eligible students, projected transportation resources needed, the estimated required total budget, the ratio of state versus local funding that would be available and the projected state budget rating. Even with the current data and setting today, the results would be similar. In summary, each scenario would result in:

• a significant decrease in students eligible to ride a bus

• an increase in the average student distance to school

• a decrease in efficient utilization of bus capacity

• an increase in cost per student

• a decrease in the state budget rating and resulting funding allotment

• an increase in required local supplemental funding

5) "In addition, the projection of implementing the maximum allowable distances would result in a significant reduction of state funding which is the primary source of transportation operating funds. " Please explain. Because at first glance, this sounds like you're taking advantage of funding that you don't technically "deserve" and/or "need."

RESPONSE: The transportation department budget consists of state and local funding. The goal is to always maximize the receipt and use of state transportation funds, thereby minimizing required local funding that could be used for other district level purposes. The state transportation funding formula and resulting allotment is designed to provide funding for a district’s transportation operation based on projected expenses and these are never more than what the district “deserves or needs.”

Thank you,


Christine Mast said...

Now, can anyone tell me why the figures sent to me (in the email) for the Transporation Dept. "Actual Expenditures 10-11" were $60,156,760

when in the "2012-2013 Proposed Budget Recommendation" book dated 3/13/12, on page 169, it states:

FY 2010-11 Actual Expenditures for the Transportation Dept. of $60,466,940?

That's a difference of over $300,000! If these numbers don't match, I'm sorry if I don't believe the other numbers that are being thrown around.

Anonymous said...

If you gave everyone "vouchers" to go to private schools, then private schools would become like public schools and you'd just need to spend even more money to keeep out the riff-raff.

Anonymous said...

There are public schools in Maine that have collaborative partnerships with private schools.

See: Fryeburg Academy, Fryeburg ME.

Fryeburg Academy is a private boarding school that educates ALL local public school students once they reach high school. My father was a public school superintendent here. He had to collaborate with the headmaster of "The Academy" as the public school representative.

Disclaimer: I do realize Maine is the most homogenous state in the Union. Apples to Oranges?


Anonymous said...

I don't think the posters were bashing that teachers aren't working enough, just stating the fact that not every minute of the school day is used for instructional/educational purposes and that it does vary depending upon ES, MS and HS. Trust me, most teachers more than earn their pay!

Parents are frustrated with the 9 different bus tier levels and school start and end times.The bus schedules are what dictate school start and end times, not what's right for the students. All studies state that teenagers do better socially, physically and academically with later HS start times. Don't see CMS using these sound studies to make a positive change to bell schedules though.

Anonymous said...

Cut and Paste:

Fryeburg Academy, founded 1792, is one of the oldest private schools in the United States. It is located in Fryeburg, Maine. One of the first headmasters was Daniel Webster, who taught at the school for a year.
Boarding students come from across the United States, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Academy also serves as the high school for the MSAD 72 public school district.

With the plethora of charter school openings and private school options, CMS is being forced to adapt. On this front, Dr. Morrison appears to be at the forefront of changing realities. He's not stupid - or clueless.


BolynMcClung said...



You badly misrepresent the "voucher" private school case as a plausible.

The great divide between public schools run by public employees and charter/voucher/private is the public employee led institutions must take any student that arrives on its steps. For this we should all be thankful. The thought of a growing population of uneducated adults is chilling.

It is illogical for a K12 education system to be 100% vouchered. In order for the private/charter/voucher system to work, a public system must exist where the undesirable students can be “warehoused”. If there are no “public” schools then there are three choices:

1.))) Some students don’t get an education
2.))) The system begins to work like the state’s liability insurance pool and students are assigned to voucher funded schools.
3.))) A system of reformatory-like schools spring-up.

What would you do with; no for, children unsuited for the general population of K12 students?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Ann , I think Christine Mast posed a equation with some support to ask Heath. I am sure "dodgeball" will be played when the questions is asked. My opinion is CMS is not saving money with the late bell schedule at all. Factor in teacher turn over and empty buses running double routes and you can simply see the math. Its a clear example of lack of planning and a even bigger lack of clear communication to parents/staff. Keith W. Hurley

Missouri said...

With the longer bus day, did some bus drivers become "full time" and now feed from the taxpayer trough to even a larger extent?

Anonymous said...

Should A School Change Start Time For Sleep? Later School Start Times Improve Student Performance: Study

Do what is best overall for students, not for what parents want it to be and be done with this.

Anonymous said...

Of course anyone who works in a CMS high school would tell you that very few of the students are alert, well fed and learn better at 7:15am. CMS is way behind the times on this issue. Why?

Fall 2012 - The Harvard Journal Education Next and the The Economics of Education Review are the latest to publish studies with scientific evidence supporting the fact that start times do matter. There is clear evidence of increased academic performance from starting a school later, even just by an hour. Just think how many more CMS students could actually graduate?

Anonymous said...

My husband and I couldn't believe it when we moved to Charlotte several years ago from California. 1) the early start times of 7:15, 7:30 and 7:45 and 2) free bus service practically at our front doorstep with the school right around the corner.

Does not seem very cost effective and efficient to me, but it's the taxpayer's money.

Anonymous said...

to Christine Mast @ 2:18pm. Thank you for sharing the insightful information from the CMS transportation department to the public. I hope that Ann is able to dig a bit deeper into this issue. It's all about not jeoparadizing the 80% state funding and not what is right for the students of this school district. It's all funny numbers and I doubt you will ever get the truth from CMS. Still no answers from your very pointed questions Christine. Maybe because if they ran more efficiently they would work themselves right out of a job. Unfortunately they are not good stewards of our tax $.

Anonymous said...

Waddell High School experimented with a later school start time in an effort to improve student achievement and raise graduation rates.

Dr. Gorman and the CMS school board recently implemented the "closure model" at Waddell High School due to chronic academic failure and abysmal graduation rates.

Common sense would indicated that starting high school at 7:15 AM isn't in anyone's best interest. This being said, starting later hasn't proven to be the silver bullet answer everyone is looking for. I spent four years in college trying to avoid as many 8:00 AM classes as possible.


Anonymous said...

High school early start times....

You may as well get off this subject. Not going to change. Several years ago, CMS experimented with this in 2 urban high schools. Absentism went up. Parents really complained and on and on. Back during busing days, high schools started around 7:30. Buses were making first stops at 5:45. I know, we were a first stop.

Missouri said...

Christine, CMS will never fess up that a strategy (this time a cost saving strategy) did not work. Heath was challenged by a number of urban leaders about the closing of schools saving money. It was a pathetic presentation finally and yet still ignored what CMS has flubbed with handling the now closed buildings.

My prime complaint is CMS still ignores presenting data that Strategic Staffing and higher per pupil spending has had any direct impact on achievement scores. Of course it is impossible for them to prove because of schools like Winterfield ES blow their assumptions.

Anonymous said...

I dislike the "on duty" time at the Middle School where I teach. Need to be on duty at 8:45 am, may leave at 4:45 pm. I can't get to the post office or bank. When the school day was 7:45 am to 3:15 pm, could get a late/last doctor's appointment. Now, need to take a sick 1/2 day or day off.
I just returned from a Middle School basketball game, the game went until after 7:00 pm, what time did the students get home? Do you think after eating dinner they did homework??

Anonymous said...

to 9:16pm. Yes, the students do their homework after dinner, about 7:45pm-9pm. They don't have to be at school by 7am so can stay up til 10pm. There is plenty of time to get homework done in the evening for a 9:15am school, and as a busy parent I appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

While the late bell make work for older children, I have a 5 year old and a 7 year old on the late bell. They (like all young children) wake up naturally at 6:30 or 7:00. They need to go to bed at 7:30. Getting home from school after 5:00 makes this nearly impossible. The late bell is horrible for elementary age children. It is also horrible for teachers as they cannot go to medical appts, the bank, or other necessities without taking time off (unpaid) from work. When they do, our children are left with substitute teachers. There is nothing good about this schedule other than the free day care it provides on the backs of teachers.