Friday, June 25, 2010

Welcome to Your Schools

An education blog is long overdue in Charlotte. I've held off, not for lack of interest or material, but for fear that a blog would be one more plate than I could keep spinning.

What changed my mind?

I figure if the school board is crazy enough to think they can reinvent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in a few months, I'm just neurotic enough to tackle one more thing.

I'm joking about the "crazy" part. Sort of.

I'm not sure whether Eric Davis and his crew can wrangle meaningful change out of the stampede of ideas and emotions that's emerging.

I'm pretty sure they'll tick off a lot of folks, no matter what they do.

But I believe they're sincere when they say they want to listen to regular people. Even in the first week, there have been stumbles. But the leaders seem willing to dust themselves off and try something different.

Hundreds of people have already turned out to give CMS an earful. Some are boosters, some skeptics.

Uncounted others are keeping tabs and weighing in by other means.

That's not just nice. It's vital.

Because no one who's trying to keep up with the entire school district -- not the superintendent and his staff, not board members, not journalists -- knows all they need to know about life in the classrooms and neighborhoods that will be shaped by the change that's looming.

That's where you come in.

CMS posted a truckload of data in preparation for the ongoing study.

This week staffers added even more.

It's a prime chance for citizen watchdogs and advocates to step up and shape decisions.

Let me know what you're thinking. And I'll keep you posted on what I know.


Anonymous said...

Great topic for a new blog. Look forward to following your posts.

Anonymous said...

I know its futile to talk about the size of the district (the state legislature will never vote to break it up, else Wake would follow), but it is really ridiculous that all of Mecklenburg County is one district. Most of the school board reps have no clue what is going on with the schools in our part of the county, or they just don't care.

Torrence Creek Elementary is 170% overcrowded and is only 5 years old. There are about as many trailers as there are classrooms inside. We are lucky to have a great principal and fantastic teachers to mitigate the condition as best as possible. However, when it snows, the ice doesn't melt very fast and they bring in all of the kids from outside and double up the classrooms inside for at least 2 days. So, all 1200+ kids under one roof. I can't believe the fire marshal doesn't have an opinion on this. We just missed the window on construction dollars from the county for a relief school and now it will be delayed at least 2-3 years from the original plan. The District 1 county commissioner, Karen Bentley, lives 1 mile from TCE, but I have yet seen one peep from her that she is fighting to get funding for a new school. I wish she would at least give the appearance that this issue is on her radar. She is prompt about returning emails on the issue but they basically amount to sympathy with no action plan or details. It really is an issue of safety at this point. I hope there is never a real emergency at the school because the size would make it utter chaos.

Donna said...

Excellent time for a blog. I agree it's amazing that they are intending to pack a tear-down-and-build-back-up-the-district plan all into one summer. This is our third year in the CMS schools, and our third year faced with massive changes. Perhaps people think the schools are constantly in crisis not just because of budget woes (which are real!) but because it's in a constant state of change? There are true success stories in CMS, but they get drowned out by the anxiety caused by instability, as well as the places that genuinely need total reform.

Anonymous said...

Good luck Anne.

I think the district is far too big, in enrollment and geography, to be as effective as it could be. The size of the district creates vastly diverse needs among its members.

I snickered a bit at the mention near the end of your post about citizen watchdogs and advocates.

Far fewer watchdogs and advocates would be needed if each city in Mecklenburg county were responsible for educating their own children.

I believe this could be done without adding administration (I mean, really, don't we already have 20 or so people with the word Superintendent in their title).

Unfortunately, with so many people, and so many diverse needs, the end game becomes politics instead of instruction. It's politics that's gotten us into this mess.

A dysfunctional school board, answering to a dysfunctional group of county commissioners is always going to be a hindrance that will chase people to private schools, charter schools and across county lines.

The greatest good would be achieved by giving locals the say-so in how their children are educated.

Ann Doss Helms said...

You got me curious, Anon 12:28. From April payroll, I count 11 with superintendent in title, including two interims. But also six "chief officers," which is about the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Great idea for a blog...I hope CMS BOE and Administration will read as well.
Kudos to this board for having the guts to look at the overall system...long past due. And kudos for giving the public a forum to give their ideas.
The true test is:
1. Are they listening?
2. Will they have the backbone to implement the changes that must occur?

Some schools will be on the losing end of this reorg and it remains to be seen if the BOE will bow to political pressure from affluent neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Great idea for a blog!

Kudos to BOE for taking on a comprehesive review...way overdue. And further kudos for giving the public a forum.
The true test:
1. Are they truly listening?
2. Will they have the backbone to make the difficult decisions and stand up to political pressure from affluent neighborhoods?

I hope someone from CMS and BOE is reading the blog. Hopefully the blog will bring out more ideas.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anne,

Anon:28 here...

I was thinking that Hattabaugh, Clark, Chamberlain and others with designations of COO, CEO, CFO and extensive education experience would more than qualify to be a superintendent or assistant superintendent.

If Charlotte were one district with 70,000 students and four other districts comprised another 70,000 students, I'm guessing 11 superintendents is more than enough. Put three in Charlotte and two in the other places.

No additional staff. No pay raises.

I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but it surely seems like there are more manageable solutions than trying to please so many factions with so many different needs.

... might create some competition too, which surely wouldn't hurt

Anonymous said...

Gorman's legacy:
1. Why did we add all those area superintendents $130,000. + each?
2. Why did we increase the publicity dept. budget so much.
3. Why so many phys ed teachers being paid $55,000. + (as high as $81,000.)?
4. How can some school districts be adding 500 teachers this summer (BCPS in MD)?

Adrian DeVore said...

You are an Education reporter, Mrs. Helms, how could you not find anything further to report on in this arena beyond CMS?

Maybe this blog will demand CMS to become more accountable to the public, as well as forcing you (as a journalist) to broaden your educational reporting palate. There are many ongoing problems dominating education right now that need to be openly confronted. It wouldn't hurt for your to read a few educational publications, take related courses, join an educational journalist/professional organizations which would make you a much stronger journalist. I wish you luck.

therestofthestory said...

Just finished reading Diane Raevitch's (sp) book. Good read. Got a little heavy into statistics and testing but you eventually get to the part where those areas reporting gains since NCLB started have actually lowered the bar to pass so no gain has happened. In 2014, NCLB requires all students to be "proficient". Since no system will achieve that, I wonder what will happen.

therestofthestory said...

To June 25, 2010 12:03 PM

Karen is more aware of this than you give her credit for. However, as a Republican in the minority of the BOCC, her voice is not paid much attention to.

Too help remedy this, please get out all the people you can to pull the R lever this fall. The D's will have their church buses out hauling in everyone from the cemetaries to vote D and more handouts.

Anonymous said...

Like most I assume little will come of these break-out sessions. Dr. Gorman always begins everything with a specific end in mind and cherry picks both data and public comment to justify things, and the Board always goes along with it.
He continues to push pay for performance, even though 99% of the research shows it doesn't work.
He continues to show a lack of support for Olympic's small schools, although we have increased test scores as a campus by 70%.
He continued to lay off teachers, even after the county restored 6 million dollars of his budget.