Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's up with CMS busing?

Update Thursday: Spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry confirms that the purpose of this release was to remind parents that the bell schedule CMS released earlier this month is subject to change. The board didn't vote on actual hours; instead, they authorized Superintendent Peter Gorman to carry out the general plan he'd outlined, which includes staggered schedules and seven-hour days for elementary students.

Henry says no one's planning massive changes to the proposed schedule. But tinkers may be needed as the budget evolves. For instance, Bright Beginnings centers aren't part of the proposed schedule, but if the board saves some or all of them they would have to be factored in.

With all the anxiety floating over possible busing cuts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools threw a curve ball with a press release sent after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"More changes to CMS transportation possible," read the headline (see full text below). "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will continue to develop cost-saving changes to its transportation schedule, CMS officials said Jan. 26," the text continued.

My eyes widened. To recap, the board OK'ed changes in school hours to make more runs next year. Some parents complained, but it's probably the least controversial cut they'll make all year.

There was also talk of eliminating magnet busing for 2011-12, but Superintendent Peter Gorman didn't recommend it and no board members made a proposal on Tuesday. That apparently killed the prospect for the coming year.

I got Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain, who oversees busing, by cell after work. He hadn't seen the release, and was a bit puzzled as well. But he agreed with my best guess: Officials are just reminding parents that the published bell schedule isn't set in stone. The idea of staggered schedules and seven-hour days for elementary kids is locked in by the board vote, he said, but CMS could still tinker with hours for individual schools.

Would the staff eliminate services for anyone without another board vote? "Absolutely not," Chamberlain said.

Here's the CMS statement:

More changes to CMS transportation possible

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 26, 2011 – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will continue to develop cost-saving changes to its transportation schedule, CMS officials said Jan. 26. The district has proposed new start and end times at some schools so that the bus fleet can be used more efficiently and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education approved the recommendation at its Jan. 25 meeting.

The changes are needed because CMS and the Board of Education anticipate having to make $100 million in reductions to the 2011-2012 budget. The budget cuts are needed because of a shortfall in state funding, the largest single source of money for the district budget.

The Jan. 25 vote marks an important milestone in the transportation process for next year, but not the final chapter, CMS officials emphasized. Proposals before the Board, such as a recommendation to reduce the number of Bright Beginnings classes, could make further adjustments necessary.

“While the proposed bell schedule establishes the framework for the new bell tiers and a seven- hour day for all elementary schools, it is still subject to change pending further Board decisions throughout the budget process,” said Carol Stamper, executive director of transportation. “The steps we’re taking in transportation to save money are one part of a complex, interdependent process.”

Families making decisions about transportation needs for the coming year should use the proposed bell schedule as a guide but be mindful that there may be additional changes, Stamper said.

The proposed changes to the bell schedule as of Jan. 26 will save the district $4 million in 2011-2012.


Anonymous said...

CMS appears to have a headline writing problem--"More Changes to CMS Transportation possible" would obviously sound scary and disruptive to many parents. However, when you read the press release it seems to be more a matter of adjustments than of more major changes.
We're used to newspapers throwing out provocative headlines but I don't think that's a wise policy for CMS's communication department to follow.

Anonymous said...

I just removed my 1st grader from the CMS system just in time it appears. The level of stress that he, that academically excels, follows the rules, needs no "extra help" was over the top. And this is my 3rd child so I know how this works. We are once again paying for education, which I do not mind, in an environment that remembers to nurture the child. We have placed this unrealistic expectation on these small people. We forget that the more you nurture a flower, the more beautiful it becomes. Why don't we do this for our children. Academics will follow, lets give them respect and see what they do with it. Did we forget children are sponges. I spent many hours in my sons classroom so I saw the stressed out level his teacher operated on. Now you wanna extend the time. Seriously, My only hope is that with that extention they will have more than 20 mins. to inhale their lunch in an overcrowded, lunchroom and possibly have more playground time. Oh, thats right they only get the playground once a week because of overcrowding. The bus parking lot is so much more fun. I suggest some of you people that make these decisions step outside your office and try to look at the child. You obviously don't do that or your solutions would make sense. Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

With this decision hanging in the balance another thought comes to mind for our already over-worked under-paid (by a long shot) teachers. I certainly hope that you are taking into consideration an increase in salary. But that cant happen since this decision is based on "budget cutting". So given the level of stress put on them as it is, lets hope that someone steps up and says "STOP". Teachers are so taken advantage of. We, as a society, do not begin to give the credit that they so deserve. Every parent out there should spend just 1 day in your childs classroom and then you might grasp just what these men and women are doing for our children. As well as those of you sitting in your "oval" offices...step in the classroom. Hire some decision makers that look out for the child/teacher not funding their own bank accounts.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised in the least by this press release.

It serves as a simple reminder that the CMS Transportation Department will continue to negatively impact the lives of the CMS neighborhood school children in ways that are unhealthy, unsafe and that negatively impact each child's education.

It is an understatement to say that the transportation situation at CMS is "the tail wagging the dog". Ms. Stamper and her Transportation Department minions are dictating educational policy to the CMS staff under the guise of achieving transportation efficiencies.

It's time for CMS to stop funding optional and/or non-madated programs such as BB, and the cross county magnet school busing, to lessen the burden on the neighborhood school children of these CMS Transportation Department mandated changes.

Anonymous said...

"What's Up?"
"What's the Buzz?"
"What the Heck?"

Confusing "all the children" with things like consistency and stability will make them far more interesting adults.

wiley coyote said...

My brain explodes everytime I try to use rational thinking about the whole transportation issue.

Let's see. A certain group thinks there are too many segregated schools and they want them broken up.

Ok, how do we do that? By redrawing boundary lines? Busing?

So do we go back to putting more buses on the road, driving farther distances to achieve a Black/White ratio/integration?

If magnet transportation is eliminated, how many minorities will be forced to return to their home school, thus making larger the percentage of minorities at a particular school? 52% of magnet students are Black.

If boundaries are redrawn and made larger, won't costs increase due to longer drive times and more frequent stops?

So on the one hand, we hear CUT MAGNET TRANSPORTATION! MAKE PARENTS PAY FOR IT! On the other hand we hear TOO MANY SEGREGATED SCHOOLS. WE NEED TO SPLIT THEM UP!, which would return us to busing and spending more money to achieve it.

One thing I will bet my house on though.

It doesn't matter what school, what the ethnic makeup of that school is, what your household income is or how far you have to ride a bus to get here, two plus two will always equal 4.

When you get to whatever school you go to, a teacher will teach you that.

Anonymous said...

I have a child in a CMS elementary school. A seven-hour day is too long. I hope they intend to use the extra time to have them complete their homework, because there is no way that a child should have to work the equivalent of a full-time job. What in the world are these people thinking?

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I'm not that upset about the extension of the day. My hope is that the extra 45 minutes will be put to good use. Now that the some of the extra resources given to lower income school are going away, they will at least have some extra time to make up for it. At least one would think that that is what the plan is.

What I don't like is how late some of the kids are getting out.

Anonymous said...

I believe CMS currently has the shortest elementary school day in the state. Is this correct?

Here's a pie in the sky thought...

One of the reasons band was eliminated from CMS elementary schools was a direct result of the school day being too short and the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. Many principals supported cutting the band program so they could focus on subjects the state would be testing (only math and reading at the time) because there wasn't enough time in the day to teach such frivolous activities like band. So, maybe if we ever get ourselves out of this financial fiasco, that extra 45 minutes could be used to learn skills like reading music and playing a musical instrument which has scientifically been proven to improve academic performance.

Just about every private school in Charlotte offers band at the elementary school level. Is there a reason "76 Trombone" Global Competitiveness can't start here in the Queen City? (when CMS isn't broke?)