The task force studying Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bell schedules meets Thursday to continue talks about when schools should start and dismiss and how long the elementary day should be.
It's a debate that has been going for three years now, and a topic of high interest to many families. Yet CMS still seems to be struggling with the notion of opening these meetings to the public.
When Superintendent Heath Morrison announced the creation of 22 task forces in late 2012, he said the meetings would be private, although the reports would be public and town hall meetings would be held to discuss the issues. He relented after the Observer questioned the legality of closing those meetings.
At the time, CMS also had a group of staff and parents studying bell schedules, but it wasn't deemed an official task force. In October 2013, Morrison and Chief Communication Officer Katherine Block said CMS would revive and expand the informal group, making it an official CMS task force with public meetings.
I hadn't thought much about it until Susan Plaza, a parent who has been pushing to shorten the elementary day and end a controversial late schedule, posted on this blog that a meeting was set for 2 p.m. Thursday at the Government Center. Someone else followed up Monday, asking where to find info about the task force meetings. I checked the CMS site and came up dry.
After I sent a query to spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte, CMS posted this list of "meeting times." Except that you may notice, as I did belatedly, that there are no actual times, just dates and locations. When I emailed again, Chief of Staff Earnest Winston said all the meetings are at 2 p.m.
CMS has released the 2014-15 bell schedule without any major changes from this year. The task force and CMS staff are expected to present any recommended changes, along with academic and financial implications, with plenty of time to prepare for 2015-16.
Meanwhile, I also got curious about meetings of the latest CMS compensation task force. As most of the official task forces reported their results last summer, Morrison announced the launch of a new compensation task force, his second and the fourth for CMS in as many years. Here's the link that includes some information about that group, which has concluded its work, Stalberte tells me.
The moral: Sometimes public bodies need public pressure to do their business in public, whether those bodies are small charter schools or big districts. Thanks to all of you who are pushing for full access and participation.