Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CMS shakeup: Wow.

"Your head must be spinning trying to keep up," my colleague, Eric Frazier, posted as I was blogging live from yesterday's school board session.

Yep. That about says it.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hasn't seen a shakeup of the scope Superintendent Peter Gorman is proposing since the 2000-2002 stretch, when federal courts knocked down race-based assignment and officials crafted plan after plan to take its place. I stepped into this beat in 2002, as "the choice plan" was gearing up and tens of thousands of students were switching schools.

If my head is swimming, I can only imagine how this feels for parents, students, teachers and other employees. By my tally, 31 schools would see significant change, such as closing, moving location or changing the kind of programs they offer. More than 20 would see boundary changes; the number remains squishy because it's not clear how many schools would pick up students from some overcrowded schools. (If this latter number seems high, read the fine print: In addition to the five suburban schools listed for boundary changes, plenty of others pick up territory as part of the more complicated student shuffles.)

I got an email from a teacher who's been offered a job at Waddell and has to decide quickly whether to accept. There's no doubt the high school in southwest Charlotte needs that teacher now -- but with a plan afloat to close it to high-schoolers next year, he's wary of taking a post that might be abolished.

I heard from people who are about to buy homes and want to know where new boundaries will land. Parents with kids in magnets slated to change want details of what will happen to their kids.

Answers to these questions, and countless more that will arise, must be hashed out between now and Nov. 9, when the board needs to approve 2011-12 changes in time for the magnet lottery. I suspect a lot of staffers are gaping at the task confronting them. I'm trying to get my head around how to cover something so massive it could probably occupy our entire staff.

Meanwhile, you may have noticed that there's also a tsunami of national attention sweeping toward school reform. TV networks just ran an "Education Nation" surge of coverage, including features on CMS turnaround schools. The movie "Waiting for 'Superman' " is generating huge buzz about Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone (it opens in Charlotte Oct. 15). President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are urging everyone to get serious about fixing schools that don't work.

That's my excuse for dashing straight from the board's work session to the airport, to take part in a "Good Schools/Bad Schools" seminar sponsored by the New York Times Institute and the Columbia University journalism school. What's going on in Charlotte is part of this national movement. And while I need an army of clones just to keep up with CMS, I need to tap into that picture, too.

For immediate follow-ups on the proposed CMS changes, reporter Mark Price,, is continuing his recent spate of excellent school coverage. I'll be back Monday.


wiley coyote said...

CMS...Clueless Management Staff.

Any data from this day forward coming out of CMS can be added to the bogus data we already get.

There will be no comparisons to prior year for sometime to come as virtually all schools will be impacted in some way.

I'm all for making the hard decisions about cutting costs from a well thought out process, but the scatter gun approach being used by CMS is ridiculous.

Why is it we just went through magnet transportation turmoil only to have the apple cart upset two months later?

These morons have no more clue today about what they're doing than they did 20 years ago.


Anonymous said...

If you watch the board meeting session...they have extended his contract without any consulation from the!

Mike said...

If it were not about the serious issue of public education, this would be so entertaining. We have a BOE rolling over for a superintendent who has demonstrated no love for academic success. We now have a table full of proposals for next year but no idea if they will really save money.

We need to identify those places, locations that are high cost to serve with little to no academic value and cut those. We have 142 students charged with 319 felony charges walking the halls of our schools. We have assaults on teachers and staff and no conequences for these students. Staff is theatened if they report the crime directly. Evaluations are just excuses to clear out disagreeing teachers which has no relevance to their teaching ability.

The system is imploding and the "good" students and families are game pieces for the diversity crowd.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why anyone is surprised at the changes. Sure, they're drastic, but the system was so bloated and mismanaged something needed to be done.

Seems to me, this is just the beginning. Most of the people I hear talking about it are saying 'it's about time' they consolidated some schools and shut down others.

This is a huge step in the right direction, even if it is a pain in the neck for so many.

It's a pain in the neck because they're trying to rectify three decades of incompetent management.

I'm actually shocked there's people who get bent out of shape about Gorman. He inherited a mess and is cleaning it up.

Actually, he's quite brilliant. Who else could so subtly do the right thing and move the system away from its focus on diversity and move it toward academic achievement yet still have people complaining that he's doing the opposite.

Let's hope this is just the beginning of a bigger overhaul.

wiley coyote said...


My son told me yesterday that he was picked to help do a video of needs for his school. Supposedly there is some "contest" going on where they can win $100,000.

They want to upgrade the press box at the stadium, yet CMS just spent $5 MILLION from the bonds 3 years ago specifically for the stadium upgrade.

I have come to the conclusion that trying to get information and a sense of direction from CMS is like herding cats.

Anonymous said...

Wiley -- not sure what you're talking about. If anything, CMS delivers too much data and is far too open about it than 99 percent of the businesses in this state. (Didn't Peter St. Onge write a column recently about CMS and TMI (too much information)?

what's bogus?

Seems like you engage mouth before brain and just take to criticizing because the initials CMS are attached to the story. And if you stopped to think for a second, you might realize that it's far from a scatter-gun approach.

Things were planned well enough by CMS for you to reference the first step taken two months ago (re: magnets) in your rant. If you didn't see it coming, you're in the minority.

comparing this group to those that came prior is laughable and shows you might be a bit out of touch.

Anonymous said...

Somehow, Wiley, I'm sure you are an expert at herding cats the same way you're an expert on the projects at your son's school and whether taxpayer dollars are funding them or not.
why speak gibberish when you don't have all the information? Where is the money coming from? What, specifically, will it fund? Who will benefit?
You don't have the answers, so until you do, quit whining and criticizing.

wiley coyote said...

Every piece of data regarding students when FRL is used is bogus.

The FRL program is fraught with fraud as a sample audit indicate several years ago.

The USDA made CMS stop the audits or risk losing appx. $30 million dollars.

Specific enough for you?

Regarding the $100K, I was not in a position at the time to go into more detail with my son.

I'll get the info and let you know.

Additionally, I have emails from CMS where I asked a dozen specific questions regarding transportation, magnets, enrollment, etc. I was told in the response they didn't have that information yet they can spew out numbers to the press that usually contain the word "estimate" in the sentence.

So before you continue to think I spout off without facts, you might want to think again.

wiley coyote said...

Here you go Anon, a small taste of my request for information from CMS in an email exchange:

I'm confused by two answers, one being CMS does not track magnet v. non-magnet riders, only actual ridership (#4), yet you can come up with a number as to the cost of magnet riders? (Since CMS counts actual riders, how many actual magnet riders are there?) And two, you have no information as to how many students who receive FRL played sports? Yet CMS can state this: Asking the board to pull that money from other programs isn't an option, she and her board boosters agree. The $700,000 gap equates to roughly 14 teacher salaries, a tradeoff no one wants to make.

Read more:

I'm not trying to debate via email, only to understand methodology. Gorman stated: 50% of the student athletes get FRL and yet he also states it would take 85% compliance to make it work, but according to #9, CMS does not have that information. So where did the numbers come from for him to make the statement?

It's mixed information such as this that frustrates many of us with kids in CMS who are trying to understand exactly what the facts are.

So tell me, how much interaction do you have with CMS downtown trying to find answers to help with solutions?

Mike said...

I just started looking at the 20 day attendance report on CMS website. There is more data there than you can wave a wand at. The question is, can we get some real information out of it. My excel spreadsheet is getting pretty big. I may have to go to Access to make this work right to, to make apples equal apples. However, constantly moving students around helps CMS divert informative opposition.

Anonymous said...

What about the children at Elizabeth Traditional ES? They want the building for another program, so the board and it's members just send the kids and parents who attend ETES, who do not have another option, packing to fend for themselves? Really, just like that, we don't have a school, other than the title 1 schools that are really not an option. The children and teachers who currently attend ETES, need to be given a seat in this building. This is personal to us. This is heartbreaking and life changing for our family. We can't move, we can't pay for private.

Anonymous said...

Another wake up call across the board for CMS. Even the kids who are doing well in "good" CMS schools are affected by this constant chaos. My high schooler is so disenchanted, yet very in tune to every news report. There is so much pressure to compete "globally", yet the kids who are trying to rise above all this change and focus on their studies are worried about CMS' reputation. No kidding, I know of an ivy league recruiter who is aware of, and "disgusted" by, the shake up. On top of all the academic heat, kids are going to have to sell themselves above and beyond this terrible perception.

Donna said...

This plan is comprehensive because the problems in CMS are comprehensive, and a small-scale approach would be effort for little reward.
I'm impressed at how thoughtful the staff have been in addressing the substantial issues of CMS, including effective use of facilities, and the need to have more access to successful programs like full-magnet TD, IB middle schools, and Montessori. This is so much better than the half-@ss attempts to change things that they tried two years ago.

They really appear to be listening, and thinking about the future of the entire district, not just the concerns of their own pocket of CMS. My kids are in a magnet program that will probably be relocated, but I can see why they are doing it, and I hope that the changes that are proposed come to pass, all of them. Picking and choosing for political (rather than educational) reasons would make it a project of far lesser reform.

Anonymous said...

Relocated is one thing, shut down and dispersed quite another. I understand how those not having their child "left behind" are in agreement; it doesn't have a negative affect, maybe it's inconvenient, but not detrimental.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is WHY-OH-WHY are we saving Billingsville ES! The worst school in the all of CHALOTTE - Proficiency 36.5 % capacity 91 %!! You know why it is at 91% capacity....bc everyone OPTS OUT of going there. The parents of that area send their kids to ET, Chantilly, Villa Heights, etc. If they were rezoned for a GOOD school, those parents wouldn't have their hands forced to send their kid to magnet/Montessori schools. Maybe then they could have their friends down the street. A solid neighborhood school would easily eliminate the over crowding of the magnet/Montessori schools.

I am one of those parents.

Anonymous said...

CMS is a mess and needs to be cleaned up. But are they going about it in the right way? This change is drastic and even though some may think certain schools should be shut down, well, is overcrowding any better? And when we shut one down, the problems there become some other school's problem. All CMS is doing is transferring one problem over to another. There isn't even any data that shows that this is going to benefit anyone, most of all the students. Students will be riding buses across town because their neighborhood schools won't exist. High schoolers that once walked to school will now have to be bused in. To top it off, some 5 year olds are going to go to school with 14-18 year olds. Classes will be overcrowded and teachers will have to pick up the mess Gorman has created. Then, when his plan fails, which it will, teachers will be blamed for the outcome and teachers are the ones being put through the crisis the most. I just think that time and careful planning is something that is truly needed with a huge change such as this. This shouldn't be rushed, but that seems to be how it's playing out. A date is given and in 6 weeks the whole district will be flipped upside down, shaken and then put back together like a puzzle. What is this for? What is the benefit? Saving money? Won't it cost money, more money, to even conduct such a's going to be a mess and teachers and students are going to suffer. I hope the school board knows that and considers that before they vote in weeks. Push the politics aside and really see the agenda for what it is...

Mike said...

What this shakeup then does, it gets CMS off the hook for a few years for the paatern of failure to return to a level where people are angry. You are correct. Schools are not failing. Teachers are not failing generally, students are not getting the preparation, the encouragement and the support from their family unit to be successful.

Peggy said...

Keeping CMS in chaos is surely job security. No one is going to fire anyone when their plan is being put into affect.
Job Security Job 1.

Parents are going to have to find a way to educate their children, they will not get it in CMS>
I've watched same activity since 1970. why are you parents putting up with this?????

Anonymous said...

Wondering why no one has heard a peep from all those parents at Hawk Ridge Elementary pitching a hissy fit last year about their new 7:30 AM start time?

Anonymous said...

Did you see where Gorman says "we've got to work fast"? That's because he doesn't want to give any one time to uncover the flawed reasoning and skewed data behind these latest shenanigans. What happened to neighborhood schools for the poor children? What happened to reducing crowding and transportation costs? Something's smelly, folks. We need an investigation. Oh and why did our budget increase instead decrease with all those cuts?

wiley coyote said...

This proves just how pathetic Gorman and our BOE are and where their mindset is:

For example, the overhaul proposal calls for converting Marie G. Davis Academy in southwest Charlotte to a K-12 school. Several elementary schools in the inner city area would become K-8 schools.

“Some of the finest schools in town operate that way,” Gorman said, referring to the area’s private schools, most of which have K-12 formats.

Hey Pete? What other wonderufl things can we glean from private schools, such as a more strict discipline code from private schools?

The icing on the cake is that Obama doesn't send his kids to public schools in DC because as he said the other day, "they aren't there yet", meaning the schools are terrible.

Gorman should be fired immediately.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Wiley, they just voted to extend his contract making it even harder for them to do that now, without a buyout!

Anonymous said...

You don't hear from the Hawk Ridge parents about the bell schedule because we know no one at CMS or the board are concerned with the suburban schools. No one cares we have first grade classes with 25 kids, a class with both K and 1st grade. And to top it off the buses are empty. Why did the bell change again?

Dunton said...

To provide some balance to the current school reform mania, it would be good if the Observer would republish one of Dr. Diane Ravitch's commentaries on the editorial page. She's an eminent scholar and former Bush administration official who has changed her point of view. See her blog entry: It's an eye opener.

There is a national context for what's going on in Charlotte and local families should be aware of it.

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that our mayor also does not send his children to public schools. However, he is all for diversity in CMS--and wants to do something about that for the rest of us through public housing policies. Ahhhh--the hypocrisy!

Anonymous said...

What about future population trends in the Waddell area? A huge apartment complex just opened up and development on Tyvola Road at the old coliseum site is coming. Where are those kids going? West Meck has over 2000 kids as does South Meck and in those same documents it states that there is a need to provide relief for West Meck. What's going on here? It seems a better idea would be to merge Harding and Berry since they are down the street from each other. There is no reason to rush the decision on Waddell because they can put kids for Smith on a waiting list.

Anonymous said...

177 of Waddell's 1037 students are Exceptional Children for whom federal law mandates smaller classes. Does the cost index Pete is espousing take that into account? How about the separation of Federal funds, state and county funds going to these schools. He's throwing Strategic Staffing under the bus. Are the grants running out so there remains no commitment to his own initiatives? Still pushing pay for performance when new studies show no difference in achievement. Charlotte, he is destroying your school system. When are you going to get angry? Will it be too late? He's counting on your apathy and your "I'm only going to worry about mine" attitudes. We will be in turmoil and he will be gone!

He's Gone said...

ANN please investigate how Dr. Gormon has begun to use High school EOC classrooms and our students as lab rats for his pay for performance system. He is currently requiring all students to take 4 standardized assessment (students take the test but they do not get grades for it) throughout the semester for each EOC class. The district collects the DATA and then tests the students 3 more times. No studetns take the test seriously because they are not graded on it. It cuts out 4 to 8 days of instructional time too..... I think the public deserves the right to know about these wasteful practices. This clown is using our district as a stepping stone and labratory for policies that had continually failed throughout the country. PLEASE ASK PETER ABOUT THE new "thinkgate" system he is using...........then after that.....interview teachers who are "required" to use it to.

Anonymous said...

The light bulb goes on! Gorman is slick people. By wiping out the salaries of teachers in all the schools he's proposing, he gets the money to push pay for performance. Remember, just a little while ago he said it was on hold, now all of a sudden he's cramming it out there again. He's going to gut our school system so he can say he made pay for performance work. He's lying about that %50 million shortfall.... there is no more grant money for this initiative and he's throwing everything else under the bus so he can further the agenda of the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates, etc. We need an investigation that wakes this community up! He's gutting our system and putting your children in larger and larger classes and grade configurations that will not be safe nor helpful. He's now hurting the children. Don't let him do this Charlotte! The ramifications from this shake up will be felt for generations!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the last two previous posters. There needs to be a serious investigation with many of "pay for performance" programs Gorman applying. Add Leap (S.L.O) to the list,in Which only high poverty schools are made to participate. Teachers are threatened that they will be marked down on their eveluations if they do not summit at least two tested groups of students. The program strickly relies on how you put data in the computer. The technology that is designed for the program is completely inadequate. It knocks out the data on every child that teachers are required to put in painstakingly one by one. Once the data is flawed, the teacher is held responsible and denied any bonus. Teachers are held to a tight deadline by Oct. 4 to start testing and putting information in the computer. However,the technology for the program is still not working to this date, yet teachers will be held responsible.

Anonymous said...

This is happening because there are no more federal funds coming in to support magnets. To continue, all funds must come from local monies. It's OK for poor and minority students to be bused all over to save magnets which have new restrictions, making them academically ineligible to attend under the old guise. This is all about scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. All that farce that went on this summer about "strengthening neighborhood schools" is thrown out the window to save magnets and pay for performance. No neighborhood schools in majority white or rich neighborhoods are threatened under this plan. Charlotte, if you let this plan go through you are declaring once and for all that you do not care about all children having a chance to succeed. As soon as these start experiencing success, you're willing to toss them around like rag dolls to support plans that research has already shown doesn't work. Pete, how many teachers do you need to get rid of to have all the money going to your special projects? Teachers that testing is obtain your "value-added" score so they can try and put some validity into pay for performance. Wake Up!

Anonymous said...

Everyone has become so incredibly concerned with one score at the end of the school year and this is what's used to judge whether or not a school is successful. Teachers and students are being held to EOG and EOC scores and those only. Nobody cares how many times a kid has moved during the year, nobody cares if a kid has parents who are in jail or have been deported. Nobody cares if the only meal these kids get is Monday-Friday in a cafeteria. Nobody in any Central Office really cares about why kids aren't performing. There are issues facing the kids in our school system that aren't addressed by a multiple choice test. We are an URBAN SCHOOL SYSTEM!! CMS is in panic mode. Teachers and students are getting thrown into teach to the test mode and not learning anything of value at all. The answer is not to sling kids all over the county to balance out school performance. There needs to be a sense of community, caring, and high expectations at all schools. Kids tend to do better when they know someone cares about them. If they're attending schools that end up on failure or low performing lists, or are slated to be closed, well then, who cares? It's extremely frustrating. And by the way... The comparisons that are done to show student growth? They are done based on the end of one school year to the end of the next - it's not always the same material. Just look at the NCEOGs for 3rd grade to 4th grade math or 4th grade math to 5th grade math. Anyone can look at sample tests on the NCDPI website. The tests should be from August of the current school year on the current grade level's material to May of the current school year on the current grade level's material. I may not be some fancy statistician, but even I know that would make measuring student growth a tiny bit more reliable. The system is way too big and is only going to fracture more and more.