Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Advising CMS

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board didn't actually pull the plug on its Equity Committee last night, but it's clear last rites are in order.

A 2001 policy made the citizen oversight panel mandatory; last night's revision makes it optional. A majority of board members said they want to create a new advisory board to monitor educational opportunities, but the existing committee isn't what the district needs today.

CMS has long relied on citizen advisory groups, dating back at least to the desegregation struggles of the 1970s. In the past decade, there have been board-appointed panels on student assignment and school construction, as well as a 2005 task force pulled together by business and political leaders who feared that CMS leaders were losing public support.

The Equity Committee lasted eight years, a lengthy lifespan as such things go. Members crunched data, visited schools and often chided the board for failing to provide equal opportunities.

But no one is left from the school board that, facing the end of court-ordered desegregation and an upheaval in student assignment, created this group. It's hardly surprising that a new board wants to define a new mission.

But what will it be? Most members were vague. Rhonda Lennon talked about a student achievement advisory committee that could look at what other districts are doing to help disadvantaged kids succeed.

My guess is the board won't get serious about redefining its advisory group until it gets through its own review of assignment, achievement and other issues (if you're following that from home, keep up with drafts of guiding principles and other updates here).

So here's your chance: What kind of citizen advice does CMS need? How could such a panel make the district better?

Yeah, I know this is pitching a softball to wisecrackers. But I also know some board members and district leaders are reading this blog. So serious answers just might get some traction.

Update 1:15 p.m. Kathy Ridge with MeckEd suggests an interesting alternative: Instead of having one group of appointees monitor equity, build on the public forums that have drawn hundreds to talk about student assignment. She'd have the board decide what criteria they're going to use to gauge educational quality and make that information public for each school (which Superintendent Peter Gorman already plans to do). Then, a couple of times a year, people with knowledge of the schools could be invited to weigh in on how CMS is doing and offer suggestions.


Rev. Mike said...

Ann, it's ironic that such a recommendation would come from Rhonda, who certainly served on her share of them, given the way she was treated by the BOE when she was last up for reappointment to the Citizens' Capital Budget Advisory Committee. (You may recall that they smeared her service as not having adequately represented their interests after the CCBAC declined to rubber-stamp the BOE's 2007 capital request and characterized her as a "bond opponent" even after she lost her race against Larry Gauvreau because she supported the 2005 bond referendum.) However, my personal experience has been that such committees yield mixed results. They exist in order to provide political cover for the boards appointing them, which means that if they like what you tell them, they do it; if they don't not only do they ignore your recommendations, they make sure to remind you that you are just an appointee, not an elected official, who has "accountability to the voters." (sic!)

Publius said...

Ann, I'm not sure it will be easy to convince average people that CMS, the Board and Gorman are interested in what they have to say. In the past this hasn't appeared to be the case and average folks in Charlotte have not had "real" representation. With apparant "short" voter memory and no voter input on the selection and retention of a superintendent the board members tend to ingore what people want and, in fact, in many cases what they promise to try to do in their campaigns.

Anonymous said...

I think most people believe any citizen advisory panel to CMS is little more than window dressing.

I can't think of an example where the views of any advisory panel were heeded in any meaningful way.

White folks and bright folks of all colors continue to flee CMS. That should be all the citizen advice the board needs, yet it is completely and totally ignored.

I never thought I'd live to say this, but I believe CMS should be abolished and some-any?-other method should be tried to educate our young people.

Anonymous said...

An new advisory board is not the priority as I see it, and I sense Gorman is setting into motion the agenda based on the 2014 plan already in process. I am guessing the immediate drive for CMS and for all of NC, as well documented in the Wall Street Journal, is to get some decisions made for the September announcement of the "rise to the top" national competition for fed funds. So far public meetings are doing nothing but revealing polarizing attitudes about access to education. Good neighborhood schools don't want to be compromised in their achievement and populations but are desperate for resource attention from the district, Magnet parents want the promises of their specialized programs AND their own transportation, some expect diversity should come first and they give the impression that they deserve or are owed it. If you truly care about an advisory committee, its input and ongoing monitoring of the district, there needs to be a representation and inclusion of official community corporate and civic support, not just parents and friends of, to address how to best serve achievement needs. There needs to be a way to bridge communications and resources beyond just getting the bus here and there and gathering an auditorium of emotions together, to get teachers and classes where they are needed and wanted. And how about active partnering for sponsorship, tutoring, mentoring and funding from charlotte corporations, technology firms, churches, national service organizations, between feeder schools, between high schools, etc.? It is time to get actionable relationships in place - any other "committee" at this point needs to be one where concrete relationships are forged, regardless of where schools are and which ones make the cut (which, in my humble opinion, has already been decided...).

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

CMS doesn't want input from parents and citizens in the community. They act like they do but in reality they don't.

All one has to do is remember when Larry Gauvreau was on the School Board, who in my opinion, had the most in your face, tell it like it is common sense approach to managing the system. He, along with Kaye McGarry, were fought at every turn by the same lame Democrat members of the Board.

Do you really think Gorman and the rest of the Board give a rats patootie about what I think or anyone else?


Many people have asked me time and again to run for school board and I always say no. For two reasons, one, my work schedule wouldn't permit because of my traveling but the main reason is I wouldn't last two seconds on the board dealing with the likes of Tate or White, who both live in a virtual fantasy land and are so far out of touch it's pathetic.

Thank God Leake and Dunlap are off the board. The only problem there is they now have the authority to actually vote on spending and wasting our tax dollars.

Pamela Grundy said...

One way I've thought that CMS might get focused family input is by setting a goal that 85 percent of parents in a school's attendance area will choose that school. Many of CMS's neighborhood schools have poverty levels well above those among families in the neighborhoods that are assigned to them, because so many families opt out of "undesirable" schools. What kind of improvements would it take to bring those families back -- to satisfy the group of parents with the highest expectations (and thus raise standards across the board)? CMS has rarely addressed this question seriously. Attempting to do so would require the system to look beyond test scores and toward the essential components of a quality, well-rounded education.

Anonymous said...

What kind of citizen advise does CMS need after Trent Merchant informed me he isn't interested in my unsolicited comments after 6 years as a CMS parent, volunteer, former PTO president (outside of CMS), former certified public school teacher and adjunct professor who currently substitutes and volunteers at a CMS school 22 miles away from my house because I love the school even though neither of my children attend it? You can't be serious. OK, Ann, maybe you are.

My unsolicited comments....

In the name of "inclusion" and "diversity", I think CMS needs several small(er) district citizen panel committees micro-focused on specific educational issues. Each committee would include parents with children in CMS, in private schools, in charter schools, in home schooling programs and/or anyone else who is knowledgeable, has experience with and cares about education not just in our community but across the United States.

According to a featured article in this week's TIME magazine, U.S. 15-year-olds rank below Mexico in math skills. How pathetic is this? TIME also suggests that including and tapping into outside agencies and people who are not entrenched in bureaucracies associated with U.S. public schools over long summer breaks might improve overall education and help close achievement gaps between underprivileged children and their more privileged counterparts.

For example, the all-inclusive Y (formerly known as the YMCA), supports a summer Starfish reading program for children who are struggling with literacy skills. The data suggests it is a successful program - at least this is what I was told before being hit up for a charitable contribution.

Public schools, private schools, parochial schools, charter schools and home schooling are hear to stay - each with advantages and disadvantages. Simple as that.

"Your" schools? How about "Our" schools.

Anonymous said...

I concur with most here, that CMS is only interested in public input so that they can say they sought it. Dr. Gorman has his plan, he does not deviate from it, and the Board supports it. If y'all want true public input you need to change the composition of the board, not necessarily to change its politics. Larry Gavreau accomplished little by his knee jerk opposition, but by choosing members who will take their roles more seriously than simply serving as a rubber stamp to a Superintendent who is being allowed to treat CMS as one big laboratory.

Anonymous said...

The really sad, pathetic fact is that school districts across the country have been experimenting and dealing with the same garbage in/garbage out rhetoric from "Drs. of Ed.D." for over 40 years. They have yet to advance our education system much beyond where it was then.

Take a look at the crime statistics on the CMS website and see how many students have been expelled. Virtually none yet there are many violent crimes committed in schools.

Until CMS gets tough with kids and their parents and also puts teachers where they are needed and fire the ones who refuse to go to certain schools, we will still be mired in the muck we have been in for decades.

Anonymous said...

I previously volunteered as a reading buddy for a local elementary school; a very worthwhile commitment and a very definite eye-opener. The ONLY professionally dressed individuals at this school were the volunteers. I was SHOCKED at the overall unkempt appearance of the teachers. And I was totally dismayed at the librarian's interaction w/ students. She was abrupt, terse to the point of rudeness--a below par role model, period. CMS must raise its hiring standards, enforce a dress code, & hold teachers accountable for workplace behavior. Many teachers choose their profession for all the right reasons. Hiring positive role models will not cost CMS one extra dime.

Anonymous said...

I have 4 CMS children and have had mixed results working with the BOE. In some instances their responses to me personally have been downright rude(from current BOE members). They are completely out of touch as to what is going on in the halls and classrooms. I volunteer daily at my kids' schools and have some great feedback/ideas for the board and my school's principal but I am tired of banging my head against the wall. Parents, get involved in your child's education, show up at school and see what's really going on and make some noise.

Larry said...

In other words the old people they had required them to put their hands up their backs and throw their voices to make sure the right things were being said.

Now with the new technology they can do it with robotics and it can be programmed so that it seems all lifelike and just like that hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World.

CMS takes the Delphi Technique to an art form.

Hey I will come and work for free and tell you the real truth CMS.

Anonymous said...

Try asking some teachers. But be careful. They are already very busy. And the busy ones are the ones you want to ask.

Anonymous said...

Based on these comments and so many of the the other blogs and the methodology of the superintendent, the disbandment of the BOE is in order. The "leadership" disregards the BOE and has set forth an agenda no matter what evidence to the contrary exists. Consensus is still a dirty word for the BOE while reality continues to erode confidence,support, and population from CMS. As others have said repeatedly, why bother if they aren't listening now?

Anonymous said...

My God, let teachers do their job and stop overburdening them with mindless programs, test prepraration and constant threats. CMS is afraid to check on teacher morale because they fear the results they will get. Dr. Gorman is more concerned with pet projects than about the people who work for him. Perhaps Bill Gates will hire him to work at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Does the board know how to do its job???? From what I see the Superintendent is giving them orders instead of them advising him.

Anonymous said...

CMS's biggest problem is its sheer size. It is ridiculous to think that a system this big with a large urban population and a large suburban population is manageable under one administration. The biggest complaint I'm hearing on this blog is that no one is listening to problems and complaints. That's because there are too darn many problem and complaints--more than 9 board members can handle, more than the administration can handle. I know, I know--we've been over this before--the state is not about to let districts break up. But at what point will everyone finally say "We've had enough bureaucracy--just give us our communities back!"

Anonymous said...

--->>>CMS's biggest problem is its sheer size. It is ridiculous to think that a system this big with a large urban population and a large suburban population is manageable under one administration.<<<---

The size of CMS is not the issue. It's the fact they don't have the management skills to run it.

They have already split the district into "learning communities", which are a total joke.

If Wal-Mart can run the biggest retail operation in the world from Bentonville, Arkansas, then we should be able to run CMS from one central location effectively.

Until we get educators out of the business of running CMS, we will continue to be mired in the same garbage we have been in for over 40 years.

maberman said...

The main thing that occurs to me in reading all of these posts is that, to a far greater degree than twenty or thirty years ago, you don't have to know anything about the subject matter or have much of a brain to voice your opinion to the masses alongside the people who do.

It makes intelligent discussion of solutions, weighing pros and cons, a lot harder.

Personally, I think that CMS could use help with searching out ways to teach more effectively with the resources it has. Right now, the current model in the classroom is not working, particularly with poor kids. Kipp and Montessori, among others, seem to show that elementary students could benefit from innovation. There are other approaches that could be tried with little risk.

CMS also could possibly use citizen help devising a method that would assess and reward teacher success without being overly rigid in a way that penalizes teachers who accept challenges and in a way that provides incentives to succeed in challenging classrooms, but without paying teachers extra for just showing up in challenging classrooms.

Those are some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can equate the running of school systems with the running of a corporation like Wal-Mart. Every Wal-Mart is essentially the same, with perhaps a little tweaking to suit individual communities (i.e., more warm weather clothes for stores in the south, more snow gear for stores in the north). The corporate model serves each store well. But within a large school system like ours there are far too many variables among schools and communities to run every school the same way. Students can't just be treated like little cogs in a well oiled machine. I think there is much more buy-in for a community and much more flexibility within individual schools if they are being run from a smaller model, one where administrators know and understand their particular community and its needs. Can you name a large school system anywhere that is effectively dealing with all the many issues inherent in large systems today? Do you know of any such system that doesn't have a churn every few years, declaring that this time they'll get it right? I believe you will find that administrations last much longer in small systems (and of course there are many fewer administrators). And it's not uncommon for principals in those systems to remain at a single school for decades--knowing the history and family of most of the children who comes through the schools' doors. I think that makes a huge difference!
One of the reasons the Achievement zones did not live up to expectations was because of politics. The status quo folks would not accept more autonomy for those zones because they were geographical and had not been gerrymandered for socio-economic and racial "diversity". If those zones could have become quasi individual districts I think they may eventually have made a difference in the public's perception of CMS.

wiley coyote said...

Anonymous said...
I don't think you can equate the running of school systems with the running of a corporation like Wal-Mart. Every Wal-Mart is essentially the same, with perhaps a little tweaking to suit individual communities (i.e., more warm weather clothes for stores in the south, more snow gear for stores in the north).

You obviously have no clue about Wal-Mart and how they operate. I do, as they are my company's largest account. I can assure you Wal-Mart would see the CMS operation as a gnat in the scheme of things. The Feds actually look to Wal-Mart for help regarding data.

Education is not rocket science. The major problem lies with educators themselves and the government - Feds, state and local. Too much minutia from these groups paralyze the system.

Until we get beyond operating school systems around FRL numbers and whining about high poverty areas (which CMS has no control over beyond the boundaries of any school) we will never advance public education any farther than where it has been for decades.

Mike Grant said...

Is there any other model of running a school system other than a superintendent and BOE? I have read several accounts of City of New York. The mayor's office runs that school system but that seems to be more like running a reelection.

Anonymous said...

leave the politics and business models out of education. It's an apples and oranges debate and one of the reasons people become dismayed by the education process.

Walmart would not put a store in a location where nobody could afford to shop. Yet, schools have to put buildings where people are not going to achieve at a level that makes people happy ie is profitable.

The school equivalent of Walmart would only include those students who could afford the product, leaving us with only high-performing students and schools.

Most countries subscribe to this model and have test scores that look real good compared to those in the U.S. Only thing is, most of them are educating a very small percentage of school age children while the U.S. tries to educate everyone.

Anonymous said...


No disrespect intended, but most people who say things like 'teaching is not rocket science' couldn't last a day in a classroom.

I do agree 100 percent with you though on how damaging it is to education when districts focus as much time and money on demographics and FRL numbers as they do on subject matter.

My two cents:
Schools are not for-profit businesses, so they rankle business types.

Schools should not be social experiments, so, if run properly, by their very nature they will upset social activist types who want our school buildings to somehow, magically represent all the things racially, socially and socialistically that our neighborhoods, cities, and states do not.

Schools are not daycare facilities, so they rankle parents who become stressed because they have to pay for someone to watch their kid when school is not in session (think snow day; or summer)

Schools, in their current model, are built to fail. The only way they won't is if they upset those who will cry foul the loudest if things are done properly.

wiley coyote said...

Anonymous said...

No disrespect intended, but most people who say things like 'teaching is not rocket science' couldn't last a day in a classroom.

I was married to an elementary school teacher for 12 years in a prior marriage so I believe I do have insight into just what teachers deal with on a day to day basis.

My "rocket science" comment is correct in that teaching itself is not what is hard, it's all the other garbage associated with it.

I didn't parse the comment out enough to state that.

Teaching taken as a whole in the environment that has existed for 40 years? Yeah a teacher needs a space suit to protect themselves from the bombardment of parents, educators, unruly kids, local, state and federal laws in order to do their job effectively.

Anonymous said...

I worked in a district where school board members ate lunch at some point during the school year at all of the schools for which they were 'responsible'...for starters!

CMS board members don't have a clue of what's going on at 'their' schools. Which gives the impression that they don't care. Gavreau, never visited my kids' school, nor has Lennon...yet.

You don't need this committee or that committee IF board members took ownership and pride in the districts they are representing.

Do they ever look at data for 'their' district? Do they look at teacher turnover rates at their schools? Graduation rates? School clubs?

The board members don't know what questions to ask or what to look for in successful schools. Therefore they follow Gorman's lead. They want to be his friend and not his boss!

If I were independently wealthy, I would run for school board. We would have neighborhood schools, fewer programs and more teachers, and accountability!

Anonymous said...

The Equity Committee has to be abolished. It has been taken over by a special interest group that wants to stop magnet programs (see how far they got this year), wants to stop giving parents options that better suit their children, and wants education eliminated in the successful schools till those students drop to the level of the high poverty schools. They are ugly elitists who like those in Washington know what is better for us that we do. We have now learned from 3 decades of busing and 1 decade of home schools that the achievement gap is not the gap. The gap is parenting and no school effort will fix that.