A lively debate over the success or failure of the Reid Park Project flared up at Wednesday's joint meeting of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board and Mecklenburg County commissioners.
School board member Eric Davis cited that project as the kind of joint effort the two bodies ought to seek as they move forward with a 2013-14 budget.
County commissioner Vilma Leake, whose district includes the Reid Park neighborhood, cut him off.
Joint meetings are strange affairs. If either body were reviewing the project as part of its business agenda, staff would have come with data and a framework for measuring results. But joint meetings tend to be more free-floating, so no one came prepared to settle the question.
It's an important one. Large amounts of public money and community energy are focused on improving the prospects of children in neighborhoods like Reid Park. The school itself has been involved in major CMS turnaround efforts, including strategic staffing and the creation of preK-8 schools (it's not part of Project LIFT because it feeds to Harding, not West Charlotte High). Many civic leaders hope the neighborhood-focused approach, based partly on the Harlem Children's Zone, proves to be a model for life-changing transformation.
So who's right?
The final word went to Richard McElrath, the school board member who represents Reid Park. He said he voted for the preK-8 conversion because it meant students who advance to middle school with weak reading skills will still have access to reading teachers, something that's lacking in traditional middle schools. The school isn't a success yet, McElrath said, but neither is it a failure.
"A year is not enough time to say something has failed," he said.
A personal note: Your Schools topped 1 million lifetime page views Wednesday, so I've celebrated by updating my photo. I figure if it's been seen a million times, it's time for a new one.