While finishing a weekend story, I added a link to the Project LIFT web site.
I routinely link to groups mentioned in articles, but in this case, I cringed.
Once upon a time, that site was rich with information. It described the emergence of a philanthropic group seeking school improvements, detailed the data they used to target West Charlotte High and its feeders, reported on big donors and outlined how the group planned to spend its money and measure success. The contract with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools giving the private donor board unique power to help operate public schools was there as well.
Then the site got a makeover. It is, as you can see at a glance, "Bold. Innovative. Unconventional."
It's also almost entirely free of substance.
The closest thing I found to any kind of detail about what LIFT is doing was an infographic on first-year milestones.
You can see scrolling logos of big supporters, but nothing about how much they're kicking in or why they're doing it. There are catchy branding slogans like "Are you #READY2LIFT?" and "Our approach to education: (LIFT) 5 = 903." But if you want any details about what that means, too bad. How are they spending money? How are they scrutinizing results? Who's on the board that helps run public schools? Not there.
I should note that Project LIFT staff have consistently been helpful about answering my questions. So I asked what had happened to all the great information that used to be available to the public at a click.
Community engagement coordinator Denada Jackson said the new site was designed to be "for all visitors and fast. Those docs slow it down."
Hmm. I'm no web designer, I'm pretty sure all the moving visuals on the new site are more taxing than a few links to PDFs.
Jackson promptly sent me all the documents that I asked for. But I still wondered: About two years into the five-year project, am I the only one who still wants details? Has the public stopped asking?
"No, I get inquiries weekly from a myriad of people," said Denise Watts, executive director and Project LIFT zone superintendent. She said she's going to "determine the capacity for the website."
These are the folks who drew national attention for finding a way to link big-money private donors with the power of a large public school district. Here's hoping they can also find a way to wed style and substance.