Friday, January 21, 2011

Forecast for magnet busing

At the risk of making myself look foolish, I'm going to hazard a prediction about Tuesday's school board meeting: Magnet families will be spared further cutbacks in busing for 2011-12, but they still won't be able to breathe easy.

Superintendent Peter Gorman did not recommend magnet-busing cuts as part of his $100 million plan, but he has urged any board members who want to go that route to put their plan up for a vote next week, before the magnet application period ends Feb. 7.

What I'm hearing from board members this week is that there's no such proposal with enough votes to pass (remember that things could change by the time they bang the gavel). It's not clear whether anyone will roll something out for a vote. Rhonda Lennon, who's been the most vocal about cutting back on the cost of magnet busing, says she'd like to find a way to do that short of eliminating all transportation to magnets, but can't figure out how.

"I don't have a solution," she said Thursday. "I think it's just too complicated to figure out in this short a time."

But if magnet busing gets a pass for 2011-12, Lennon says she will be "leading the charge for a wholesale magnet review," starting right after this year's budget talks are over.

Another twist to look for Tuesday: Joe White will be absent, based on vacation plans made long before anyone knew there would be a big budget vote in January. That creates potential for 4-4 deadlocks on proposed cuts to Bright Beginnings, weighted student staffing and new bell schedules. It still takes five votes for any proposal to pass (and Gorman does not have tie-breaking power).

Other odds and ends:

Apologies to anyone who was hoping to participate in last week's live Q&A. I was mentally gearing up that morning when my mom called to say my dad had fallen and broken his hip. He's doing great, and back at the Observer we're still trying to figure out the best ways to answer all the questions that are flying. CMS has answered several queries we've gotten from readers, and more are in the hopper.

Raleigh's school-board controversies are generating national attention -- and chuckles. The N.C. Public School Forum's Friday Report has a good synopsis that includes a link to the Colbert Report clip. I've been hearing about it for days and am eager to get home and watch (my work computer isn't good with video).

Finally, the MLK Day controversy has created a lot of buzz about what's normally the world's dullest topic: N.C. school calendar law. Here's a link to the law. CMS officials would love to get some of those restrictions lifted. If you're interested in weighing in, there's a link to the Web page with legislator contact information at the right of this blog.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back and glad to hear your dad is doing well. Now is it possible to file a Freedom of Information Act to obtain the proposed specific teacher cuts outlined and those hidden in the cutbacks? If the CO can do it to obtain local government e-mail addresses of citizens, maybe CMS employees can use this to determine exactly where the cuts are.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your dad is doing well.
Like many teachers I was appalled to read the interview with Gorman is which he rejected any possible way to save teachers. I wonder if there's a teacher in the system who didn't laugh when they read he was concerned about 'morale' issues in regards to pay cuts. I don't know a single colleague who wouldn't take a temporary pay cut or one of those 'complicated' furloughs to retain another colleague.
It would be great if you could interview the more sane and decent people in charge of Union and Gaston county and see what they plan to do.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a big mistake for the BOE to NOT look at Magnet busing right now, not next year. It is wrong that kids are being bused all over the county, about as INEFFICIENTLY as possible, to schools that are not their neighborhood schools. Who will stand up and do the right thing for all CMS students? Save the teaching jobs, help the kids where they need it the most - in the classroom! Who will have the "guts" to lead this charge and save the district millions?

Anonymous said...

The fact that the suburban school children lack a common voice or advocate means they will continue to bear the majority of burden of the upcoming cuts.

Sadly, the BOE priority of "neighborhood schools" has gone by the wayside, and the magnet school busing can will get kicked further down the road, yet again.

When will the BOE get their act together and do what's right for the entire community, as they originally committed to, instead of continuing to be held hostage by the more vocal special interest groups within CMS?

Tim Morgan, where are you on this issue??

Anonymous said...

Ann-glad your Dad is better.

I still can't get over how Gorman-as one poster put it- "threw the board under the bus" on the King issue. This is the same board that supports all of his destructive policies.

Gorman has probably already struck a deal with B.members to vote against transportation for magnets, so he can again appear to be the innocent victim.

Rhonda Lennon's hardest decision this time is should she sale her soul for an IB magnet or that much needed face lift.

wiley coyote said...

Lennon, who's been the most vocal about cutting back on the cost of magnet busing, says she'd like to find a way to do that short of eliminating all transportation to magnets, but can't figure out how.

How can anyone take this person serious after the comment she made saying "that students who live near school are the cheapest to bus, and said eliminating their rides makes little sense". WOW! Really??????

And this person is advocating eviscerating magnet transportation? She wouldn't know what a clue was if it jumped up and bit her on the nose.

Hello, Mcfly? Kids going to magnet schools are there to actually learn something. Sports are secondary to academics.

Rhonda, you continuously want to have your cake and eat it too. You want to come up with funds yet you won't touch sports.

The facts about sports bear out that a very, very miniscule number of high school kids go on to play college sports.

Cutting middle and high school sports can save about $4.3 million per year. Based on the $50,000 per teacher figure CMS uses, cutting sports would save 86 teaching jobs.

I would also like to see you advocate drop points for neighborhood schools, just like you do for some magnets now. I'm sure there would be significant savings implementing a program such as this. Some schools have boundary distances of over 9 miles.

Hard choices have to be made. Magnet transportation has already been cut. It's time to "spread the wealth" by cutting neighborhood transportation and sports.

Anonymous said...

WHY is CMS still busing a neighborhood on Hwy. 51 and another neighborhood across the street from the Arboretum Shopping Center to a "close proximity" high school in Myers Park?

And we've got our panties in a wad over magnet school bus transportation? How about charging a transportation fee to ALL students who live further away than a certain number of miles to the school they attend when others are much closer?

Anonymous said...

To Wiley, the wealth has already been spread! Most of our area neighborhood schools already have the lowest per pupil expenditures.

Would you be in favor of charging magnet school students for the additional transportation expenses it costs all of us ($1000 per student)? I think that is a reasonable solution.

Isn't middle school sports already pay to play? Plus the additional $1 at HS sports events, and the funds from the Bobcats, touchdown club, and few others are covering those costs.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why anyone believes Dr. Gorman "threw the board under the bus" over the King holiday issue. If you read the front page article Eric Davis was totally agreeing with Dr. Gorman's assessment of what happened--in fact he may have been the one asking that the process be clarified, as he has publicly made the point that it is vital that the public receive accurate information about CMS. And I haven't heard any other board members complaining about the clarification or denying their involvement in the process.
Perhaps many in this community (including board members) are finally recognizing that if you don't publicly correct those who are presenting false, misleading, or inflammatory information there can be severe consequences.

wiley coyote said...

To Anon 12:00...

The pay to play scheme Gorman cooked up is fraught with fraud.

ALL FRL students get to play for FREE, while the other 40% of us have to pay for our child to play.

CMS is requiring student-athletes in middle and high schools to pay participation fees, beginning this year, in reaction to the school system’s budget cuts. Middle school students must pay $50, and there is a $100 fee for high school students.

But any student-athletes who receive free or reduced-price lunches -- a federal measure of poverty -- will be granted a waiver from the fees. In addition, said Vicki Hamilton, CMS’ director of athletics, students whose families are not below the poverty level but are suffering unduly from the recession will be considered for the waivers.

Gorman said CMS needs 85 percent of students to pay the fees, in order to break even.

Regarding magnet transportation, every number coming from CMS regarding magnet transportation is an estimate:

CMS: Bus changes could save $18.5 million
Ending rides for magnets, other schools could trim $18.5 million - or a lot less
By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Below are questions and responses I received from CMS when I asked about transportation costs:

1. Does CMS count those magnet students who attend a magnet that is within their home school area as a $1500.00 or a $400.00 transport? ANSWER- The $1,500 is the estimated annual cost for students assigned to full magnet schools. The $400 is the estimated annual cost for students attending a non-magnet home school. The cost to transport students in partial magnet schools lies between these cost ranges.

3. Total number of students who attend a magnet within their home school area. ANSWER - Not sure if we have this---still checking.

4. The total number of magnet students who qualify to ride a bus and the actual number who rode (last school year)? A breakout between home school magnet bus riders v. out of home school area riders. ANSWER - The district tracks actual ridership. Who is eligible and who actually rides---we don’t track magnet vs. non-magnet school riders.

My personal favorite is #4. They don't track actual magnet v. non-magnet riders?

Here's the problem I have with the whole transportation thing.

My son attends the language magnet at West Meck. It happens to be our home school. He hasn't ridden a bus in 3 years.

The northern boundary for West Meck is over 9 miles from the school and the southern boundary is 7 miles. We live 3.5 miles from the school.

From our house, there are SIX, count them - SIX other magnet programs/schools that are closer to our house than the southern most boundary is from West Meck.

My point is, yes there are still SOME kids being bused to magnets from long distances, however, considering there are about 19,000 magnet students out of 135,000 TOTAL CMS students, that is a drop in the bucket compared to all the "neighborhood school" kids being bused.

I don't trust ONE number coming from CMS.

wiley coyote said...

To Anon 12:00 and Ann,

I responded to your post with a lengthy reply, stating facts about pay to play sports and transportation costs with info provided to me by CMS.

As has become the norm here lately, some posts seem to disappear a few minutes after posting. I had that happen last night on another blog and it also happens to other people.

It gets annoying when a person takes the time to post a lot of information to support a point(s) only to have the response disappear.

Ann Doss Helms said...

12:07, you are exactly right. Gorman never volunteered the information that he'd offered the board an out, even at his news briefing when he was fielding questions about that decision. It was only when I specifically asked Eric Davis what options Gorman might have had to override or ignore the old board's decision that he explained emphatically that it wasn't Gorman's fault.

Wiley, I wish I had the technical expertise to help you with the disappearing posts, but I'm clueless on that front, and I shared what I got from our online editor earlier. It's particularly tough to figure out because these disappearing posts aren't even leaving the usual "trail," where it notes that a post has been deleted by the author or an administrator.

wiley coyote said...

I appreciate it Ann. I realize there isn't anything you can do about but wanted t let you know it was still happening.

By the way, I hope your Dad is up and around soon!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Ann. Good to hear that your dad is doing better. Quick question that you or someone may be able to answer. I've seen the notion that it costs $1000/per student more to bus a magnet student than a student to a neighborhood school Can you direct me to where this number comes from? Magnet busing took a hit with the change to shuttle stops this year, and I was wondering if this amount reflects this change.


Anonymous said...

Anon 10:26: "The fact that the suburban school children lack a common voice or advocate means they will continue to bear the majority of burden of the upcoming cuts."

That's crazy. The suburban schools have the most powerful advocates in the system. And most of these cuts will be borne by the high-poverty students (weighted student staffing, magnet transportation, bright beginnings). Raising class size will be spread across the system - the burden will be borne by all.

Anon 12:00: "Would you be in favor of charging magnet school students for the additional transportation expenses it costs all of us ($1000 per student)?"

I'll bet if you did a poll you'd learn the vast majority of magnet families would be in favor of paying for transportation, rather than losing it altogether. But does anyone know where that $1000 per student number came from? It sounds off.


Cutting magnet transportation will affect different magnets differently, but it will seriously damage some of our highest-performing magnets (which incidentally are not nearly as expensive as people perceive, and which return huge value). And there will be expensive and chaotic ripple effects throughout the system (picture thousands of students transferring at the last minute to home schools - trailers having to be installed, etc.). It would be a situation where, in trying to solve one problem, the board would create an even bigger problem.

If the board wants to get rid of magnets (or re-evaluate which magnets to keep paying for), they need to take a more systematic approach. I believe our magnets are a very worthy investment, but if board members have any doubts, then Rhonda's suggestion for a magnet review next year would be a more responsible and less haphazard way to approach the situation.

Anonymous said...

Hello, everyone,
Here are the links for per pupil spending in CMS. Magnets are by far no more expensive than the
home/neighborhood schools--other than transportation. Looking at elementaries, our high cost per pupil is First Ward and they are ~$2300 less than Thomasboro. For the most part, magnet schools are in the mid-range of expenses. When looking at magnets, be careful
to compare the cost per pupil to the average expense of each group (elementary
avg is $5,859, middle school avg is $5,332, high school avg is $5,310) instead
of the district average of $8,523. The district average also includes Bright Beginnings at an avg of $7,301 and special schools at$17,216.

Base opinions on facts, please. Magnets are not elitist but offer parents the opportunity to individualize the educational experience to the child's interests, abilities and deficits. For my family, we have chosen a magnet near where we work--fancy that, being close to your child's school just in case they need you or you want to volunteer on your lunch break or your child invites you to lunch.

My proposal: charge for busing to magnets and if the child qualifies for free and reduced lunch--then let them ride for free.

But please, the public and the media should stop victimizing magnets as expensive, elitist, and recognize that magnet schools do offer our ENTIRE community a beautiful opportunity to customize their child's education.

Per pupil spending for Elementaries\

Per pupil spending for Middle Schools\

Perp pupil spending for High Schools\

Anonymous said...

Ann, your link to find state legislators isn't working for me. Here is an alternative link for contacting a variety of elected representatives:

Anonymous said...


For those not lucky enough to have attended the first budget workshop back in November, here's a reminder.

The board poorly started the process by taking schools of the list for cuts. They took-off two schools and left the Montesorri(my bad spellin')

Magnet transportation is too big to overlook. Out in the western states where distances are huge and students few, school boards are eliminating whole bus routes. It is the only way to save big bucks.

The CMS school board needs to bite the bullet and agree to eliminate some complete magnet routes this year. Then the balance next year.

OOPS next year is the At-Large board elections.....guess none of this is going to happen!

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

The magnet school transportation system is huge, inefficient and very expensive. Just ask Ms. Carol Stampre of the CMS Transportation Department about the challenges magnet school bus route planning creates for her team each year.

Cut magnet school busing this year or charge a fee for it.

Notice: I'm not advocating cutting magnet schools, just suggesting the BOE attack the exhorbitant cost of transporting many (but not all) of the magnet school students back and forth across the county each and every school day.

Anonymous said...

Here's how to equalize per pupil spending at all schools.

Most of the money comes from staff salaries so make sure you have an equal mix of teachers in terms of:
years experience,
advanced degrees
national board certification.

Also,make sure all principals and other staff are paid the same amount of money.

Next differential is the federal monies so make sure you have an equal number of the following categories of students in each school:
Exceptional Children (EC)
English as Second Language ESL)
McKinney-Vento (Homeless)
Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL)

Make sure no school is Title I then the feds won't pay for extra staffing.

Until CMS dis-aggregates the data in all of the terms above, it's only purpose is to foment discord among sections of the population in order to achieve Gorman's hidden agenda and destroy this school system.

That's the way it has always been in this country, make middle class and poor whites think that minorities are taking something away from them so their latent racist attitudes can burst forth.

So it leaves the all little guys (middle and lower class whites, blacks and Hispanics)fighting over a little sliver of the pie while 99% of that pie is in the pockets of a very few. They sit in their ivory towers laughing at us and marveling how this works every time.

We all need to band together and ask for a real accounting of all funds in this school system. We used to get a budget, before Gorman, that told us where every penny came from and where it went. Demand it now Charlotte and uncover the lies!

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Ann and Eric,
Please ask the following questions or find the answers to them. Thanks

Dr, Gorman,
You and your staff stated that it would save 3.3 million dollars this year to close schools. Your budget proposal has an "operationalized" cost to close schools of over 5 million dollars.

So is it costing 8 million to close the schools? After subtracting the 3.3 million dollars, is our net cost to close these schools over 5 million dollars?

Something doesn't add up up unless you're hiding that savings in one of your pet projects and putting all costs for closing into the budget proposal.

Still, does that mean it is costing us over 5 million dollars to save 3 million?

We need to demand a budget and budget proposal that itemizes all costs and expenditures!

Anonymous said...

Wiley and others who have been visited by the posting phantom.

I usually write my long posts in MSWord and cut and past. That way I have it if something goes wrong, I can spell check and grammar check, etc.

At the very least, right before you go to post, select all in the posting box and copy. That way if it goes to nethreworld of posts, you an paste it back in.

Many of these problems are caused by pop-up blockers and home fiewalls. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Pete Gorman is the superintendent of CMS. He and the board are responsible for policies and procedures the district follows.

Lets say that Gorman did not out his board, or as Davis stated,"That's not fair, "Dr. Gorman went to every one of us and asked us, 'Do we continue or make a change?'" . "To my knowledge, every board member said, 'Proceed.'" This only proves the point, it's the blind leading the blind on sensitive issues that affect the community.
Gorman does not get a pass on any of the ills happening to CMS.

wiley coyote said...

I see the magnet haters are out in force again.

Regarding magnet transportation, CMS has yet to come up with a definitive answer regarding exactly how much they are or have saved making changes to magnet transportation. It is always an estimate.

Someone here posted magnet transportation “facts” and we should ask Stamper about it.
OK, here are a few questions I sent to Gorman 4 months ago on this subject. Please note the answers I received.

1. Does CMS count those magnet students who attend a magnet that is within their home school area as a $1500.00 or a $400.00 transport? The $1,500 is the estimated annual cost for students assigned to full magnet schools. The $400 is the estimated annual cost for students attending a non-magnet home school. The cost to transport students in partial magnet schools lies between these cost ranges.

Here’s the problem with the answer. My son attends the Language Magnet at West Meck which happens to be his home school. He has not ridden a bus in 3 years yet CMS claims they cannot tell between those magnet students who live within their home school area and attend a magnet within that area and ride the bus.

3. Total number of students who attend a magnet within their home school area.Not sure if we have this---still checking.

Not sure? I love that answer and I never received any data.

4. The total number of magnet students who qualify to ride a bus and the actual number who rode (last school year)? A breakout between home school magnet bus riders v. out of home school area riders. The district tracks actual ridership. Who is eligible and who actually rides---we don’t track magnet vs. non-magnet school riders.

See? They can’t discern between magnet riders in home school areas v. non-magnet riders.

The northern boundary for West Meck is 9 miles from the school. The southern boundary is 7.2 miles. I live 3.5 miles from the school. Here’s an interesting fact. There are 6 magnets closer to my house than the southernmost boundary for West Meck.

Now think about that. Think of all of the buses running around out there carrying “neighborhood” kids to school those long distances. Why are we not eliminating many of those buses and creating drop points for them as well?

Here are a few other facts regarding magnets.

52% of the 19,000 magnet students are Black.

The one poster who commented about FRL students getting FREE transportation to magnets? FRL is based on FRAUD. It is estimated 60% of those students don’t even qualify for FRL yet FRL is used for everything – FREE sports, FREE lunch, FREE AP/IB tests and now you want to give them FREE magnet transportation?

I tell you what. When you identify those who truly qualify for the FRL program, I’ll agree with you. Until then, everything CMS does based on FRL is done so fraudulently.

We can immediately save 86 teaching positions by eliminating middle and high school sports.

Anonymous said...

Ann, hope your dad is doing well. I am not reading about Magnet school haters but the points are valid. It does cost a lot more to bus Magnet school students. The previous post is just one example of a magnet child that does not ride the bus but that is an exception. Most of the magnet buses are not full. CMS should consider drop points for all magnet students, or a fee as others here have suggested. That would also save a lot of teachers jobs, maybe 86.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 3:07: The school board includes Tom Tate, Joyce Waddell, and Richard McElrath, all three usually hyper sensitive to the needs of poor and minorities. Yet not one of these three spoke up about the King holiday. Why did they not think it was a problem? I don't believe they are "blindly" led by Dr. Gorman--in fact they most often vote as a block against many of his proposals.

wiley coyote said...

To Anon 8:03...

Let's get together and see how much MORE money we can save by cutting bus rides for the other 118,000 kids that are not in magnets.

I'll put money on the fact if we eliminate busing kids who live within 2 miles of a neighborhood school and use drop points of over 5 miles, we'll save a lot more money than magnet school transportation.

Using your analogy of "maybe" saving 86 teachers eliminating magnet transportation and adding it to the elimination of sports, we have now saved 172 teaching positions!

Good job!

We also succeeded in the continuing dumbing down of CMS students because of those who will have to drop out of magnets due to the fact they can't pay for a bus ride or get one to their school.

Anonymous said...


SUBJECT: 120 stories from across U.S.

I've just posted an interactive map of the 50 states with over 100 article about what the challenges are like in local school districts.

You'll find like problems, like solutions and a pretty good idea just how wide-spread is this budget illness.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said... the previous Wiley poster, only 56,000 CMS "neighborhood" students ride the buses (42% of the students). The no transportation zone should be expanded to at least 1 mile but the CMS transportation dept does not want to lose state funding. It would absolutely make sense to make budget cuts in transportation for ALL students right now, not next year. But, once again the kids and teachers will get *(^^$&**.

wiley coyote said...

To Anon 7:14...

You misinterpreted the 118,000 students I used in my earlier post.

That's the difference in number of students not in magnets. Of course 118,000 students don't ride the bus.

If you read all of my threads, based on answers received back from CMS regarding transportation, they can't tell you how many of those 56,000 ride a bus to a magnet within their home school area. How many of those 56,000 are magnet students?

If CMS can save $3.5 million by reducing or eliminating magnet transportation (their estimated figures), think of how much could be saved by moving the distance from school back and using drop points for neighborhood schools.

God forbid we lose non-existant state funding that we continue to throw down a black hole.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On the cost per student: CMS presented those numbers in June, as the "comprehensive review" was ramping up. Tally was average of $1,542 a year to bus each magnet student, compared to $413 a student for neighborhood schools. That was based on the previous year, prior to shuttle stops. The original document is probably somewhere on the comprehensive review site (, click "comprehensive review" in red rail at left), but I couldn't find it quickly.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On state legislator link, I just tried it and it took me to the General Assembly Web page (from there you have to click House or Senate and go to member lists).

Ann Doss Helms said...

On the school closings, my reading of the priority document was that the "operationalized" number of $5.2 million for school closures was a reduction, not a cost. This should be clarified/explained at Tuesday's meeting.

And on saving before doing a long post, that's a great tip. I tend to remember how smart that is right after I've lost something big (hasn't happened to me on the blog, but plenty of other opportunities for computer gremlins to eat my copy).

wiley coyote said...

From CMS:

"The district tracks actual ridership. Who is eligible and who actually rides---we don’t track magnet vs. non-magnet school riders".

CMS: Bus changes could save $18.5 million

Ending rides for magnets, other schools could trim $18.5 million - or a lot less

By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 15, 201

I suppose the number falls somewhere between say oh, ZERO and $18.5 million?

....BUT, they can sure come up with some numbers....

Anonymous said...

Even now a commentator says that CMS is busing children "all over the county" to attend magnets, which is entirely false. No child living more than 5 miles from their magnet school receives busing while many children travel further than this to attend their "home" school. CMS has not done any reliable study of what magnet busing has actually cost this year. Even if it had, it can't predict what cutting that busing would save because many of those students would have no choice but to attend their home school, and thus the numbers of bus riders will not decrease significantly.