Thursday, September 12, 2013

CMS wants Amay James back

The school board approved a plan Tuesday to end Brookstone School's lease on the old Amay James prekindergarten center in 2015 so Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools can use the space for nearby Reid Park Academy, a CMS preK-8 school.

It's just one of the ways that current officials are trying to cope with a 2010 decision to close about a dozen schools,  moves that previous leaders said were forced by looming budget cuts.  Among the most dramatic changes:  CMS closed three low-performing middle schools,  reassigning students to eight hastily-created preK-8 schools.  Other schools,  including all the free-standing prekindergarten centers, were closed because then-Superintendent Peter Gorman said they were not delivering academic benefits, not attracting students or not cost-effective.

Now the district is launching a campaign for approval of $290 million in school bonds in November.  The No. 1 project is reopening two of the closed schools  Oakhurst Elementary will become a math/science/arts magnet and the former Starmount prekindergarten center will be a neighborhood elementary school.  (Click here for the new CMS bond page launched this week,  which includes detailed descriptions of proposed projects).  The cost for converting both buildings,  which are currently used for staff offices,  is $5.94 million.

Also on the list is $30.4 million to build a new preK-8 school in west Charlotte to relieve the overcrowded Reid Park and nearby Berryhill School,  another of the preK-8 schools that was created as part of the closing plan.  The new school would open in 2017.  Amay James,  which is now being leased to the private Christian elementary school,  would serve as a stopgap.

Crowding isn't the only issue sparking follow-up expenses.  CMS hurried to turn elementary schools into buildings that could serve middle-schoolers and 4-year-olds in time for the opening of school in 2011.  The 2013 bond includes $24.7 million to finish the job at six of the schools,  including the addition of gyms and special classrooms.  That work will be done in August 2019,  eight years after the schools converted.

As Superintendent Heath Morrison,  who started in 2012,  doesn't argue for the wisdom of the closings.  He notes that he reversed the one closing decision that overlapped into his time,  a vote to close University Park creative arts magnet and merge it with First Ward in a complicated year-round schedule.

Instead,  Morrison hopes to convince voters that CMS is making wise financial decisions moving ahead.  For instance:  Reopening Oakhurst and Starmount will cost about $30 million less than building two new elementary schools would have.  Building new combined elementary/middle schools for about $30 million costs about $18 million less than building an elementary and a middle school.  And leasing the closed schools or using them for CMS offices gives the district flexibility it wouldn't have had it it sold the property.  Before asking for new buildings,  Morrison said,  CMS first asks,  "What do we have in our inventory?"

Update:  Thanks to an anonymous commenter who's better than me at web site sleuthing,  here's the link to a report on past bond projects that's fresher than the March version posted on the CMS bond site. Some people have complained about CMS lists that omit cancelled or delayed projects. This one seems to include everything (see, for instance, cancelled renovations for Amay James and Davidson IB Middle School, both closed in 2011).


Anonymous said...

But what about the schools still waiting to be built from the 2007 bonds. There's at least two. No one wants to talk about those.
Vote No on Bonds in November.

Wiley Coyote said...


Monies still left from 2007, prior to the economic calamity, schools closed, schools consolidated and yet we've survived.

Graduation rates are up dramatically, right? Closing schools had no effect on that, right?

CMS cannot be trusted with any data put forth.

Why was the Whitewater School built and underutilized for YEARS?

Why was Waddell built?

Why was Mountain Island Elementary built when it was overcrowded before the doors opened and is landlocked, with nowhere to build but up?


Jeff Ruppenthal said...

As principal of Mountain Island I have to respond to "Wiley Coyote's" misinformation. Mountain Island was not initially overcrowded when our doors opened ten years ago. Also, we are not "landlocked" and actually our perched on a sizeable piece of property.

Jeff Ruppenthal said...

Correction - "are" perched

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about Highland Creek Elem, which did open as an overcrowded school and is still waiting for a relief school to be built. That relief school was a promise made but not kept as part of the 2007 bonds. The school has 1200 kids in a school designed for 750-800, with approx. 25 mobile classrooms.
Vote No on the Nov CMS bonds.

Wiley Coyote said...

Mr. Ruppenthal,

My comment about MIE being overcrowded before it opened is the same as saying the south leg of 485 was oudated before the first car ever drove on it.

Perhaps I should have used the word almost in my comment, but you get the point.

How many mobiles do you have over there now? The last time I counted it was about 12.

Before the economy collapsed, a new elementary was proposed by a developer at HWY 16 and Mt. Holly Huntersville Road to help with overcrowding in the area? That was years ago.

As far as the land use goes, you have no room. Sure, you could put a few buildings where the mobiles are or maybe in the very back of the property, but you have no room for any athletics. The current ridiculous proposal is for you to use Coulwood's facilities if converted to a K-8.

Paw creek has more land than MIE and to me it makes more sense to turn it into a STEM school.

Anonymous said...

I guess the overcrowding and inequality in the suburbs will continue. Sorry AKHS find a place on the floor and sit; oh and have your parents continue to pay for everything.

Question-are the LIFT schools still allowed to participate in the school mates sham?

Jeff Ruppenthal said...

Have you looked at our property? I'm looking over a large field where mobiles once stood. The opening of Whitewater and River Oaks helped our overcrowding immensley. We once had an enrollent of 1300 students - we now stand close to 680. None of our grade levels are currently being housed in mobiles.The athletics issue is not tied to our land issue but K-8's in general and I am sure will be worked out. I think it is vitally important that the public receives correct information.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,the last sentence in your comment
says it all... well put.

Wiley Coyote said...

Mr. Ruppenthal,

I stand corrected and apologize for my error, however, if MIE is converted to a K-8 and you have to use Coulwood facilities, then to me that is still a poor use of facilities and planning on CMS' part.

Whitewater wasn't opened to alleviate overcrowding at MIE. CMS closed schools and was forced to redraw lines which helped with your overcrowded situation.

Whitewater was built because Crosland was going to build over 2,300 homes across from the school and when the economy tanked, it never happened. So CMS was sitting there with a school at 46% capacity.

Mountain Island Monitor 2010:

In March 2004, Crosland had purchased more than 150 acres along Belmeade Drive, from the Clariant Corporation for 2.4 million. At the time Bill Daleure, then president of Crosland, said their plan to build 2,300 single-family homes in the development dubbed Whitewater was company’s biggest project in Charlotte.

The community was to have homes ranging in price from $150,000 to more than $400,000, and Crosland hoped the first homes would be available in early 2006.

It never happened.

That is another example of poor planning by CMS.

Anonymous said...

The opening of Mountain Island Charter School "helped" reduce enrollment at MIE. MIE is a great school, but until CMS addresses the problems at Coulwood, MIE will continue to lose good students and families.
The bonds that are up for vote do not in any way address Coulwood or taking MIE K-8. I think CMS is using taking MIE K-8 to help ensure the bonds are passed because they don't want a repeat of bond vote-down from ~10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Vote NO, NO, NO, NO, NO for the school bonds. It was stated that Morrison would want a school bond referendum if the state and county lowered their funds to CMS. So here we go, a school bond vote. No, no, no!!!! Utilize the closed schools and update them with the money left in the bond fund of 2007. I bet CMS has millions of dollars stashed around. CMS just wants to pad its bank account. NO to CMS bond referendum.

Jim said...

The CMS website has a document about the 2007 bond package called "Promises Made, Promises Kept" (link)</. That document, however, has excluded the projects that were funded in that package that were never built, the new Elementary on Johnston-Oehler Rd for example. Why can't CMS be upfront about this and explain (or at least acknowledge) that some of the 2007 bond projects aren't yet built while they are busy touting the need for more bond approvals? It seems very misleading to me, and I am strongly leaning toward a no vote on this package after voting yes for every CMS bond initiative ever proposed. CMS needs to come clean and explain!

Jim said...

The link to CMS's "Promises" document didn't work. It can be accessed here:

Wiley Coyote said...

Mr. Ruppenthal,

Earlier you said two things:

1 - "I think it is vitally important that the public receives correct information."

2 - "Have you looked at our property? I'm looking over a large field where mobiles once stood"

Now, I agree totally with your first comment. Correct information IS vitally important.

However, regarding your second comment, I have a problem.

I posted an apology after you stated you had no mobiles on your school grounds.

I live about 4 minutes from MIE and so I did a short detour on the way into the office. I counted AT LEAST 12 MOBILE classrooms on MIE property. These are the same mobiles that have been showing up on Google Earth for a few years.

So please enlighten me again on the need for "vitally correct information".

Anonymous said...

Jim and others looking for a 2007 summary: Guy Chamberlain sent me a summary that listed all 40 projects originall listed on the 2007 bond and where they stand now, including those that were eliminated by school closings and those that haven't started. But it was somewhat outdated (Grand Oak under construction, etc.) and he said he was trying to get it up to date. It looks like what you get now from the 2007 "Promises Kept" link is a list of projects from ALL previous bonds and it's still a bit behind. If I can track down the current 2007-only list I'll post it.

Wiley Coyote said...

I think the lesson here is that it is 2013, soon to be 2014 and we're still trying to get up to date info from 2007.


Anonymous said...

MIE hasn't had an entire grade level in mobiles since MICS opened. Last year, music classes and one fifth grade class were held in mobiles. The last of the mobile pods (classrooms connected by hallways) was removed by CMS last summer (2012). The removal lead to the incorrect assumption by some that CMS was going to start building a middle school building on the land.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Ruppenthal, I appreciate your stepping in to address questions specific to your school. I hope you'll follow up. I can think of reasons there might still be mobiles on your grounds even if no grade levels are in mobiles. But your first-hand knowledge is much better than my speculation.

Wiley Coyote said...

About an hour ago, I personally counted what looks to be at least 12 mobiles at MIE.

Google Earth shows 12.

Now CMS may be just storing them there and no kids are using them, but to say he has no mobiles is false.

Anonymous said...

The 2007 bond project list can be found on pages 7-9 of this deck.
Deck was presented at the 3/12 board meeting.

Anonymous said...

10:38, you're right, but that's the list that's a tad misleading because it doesn't include "Promises that won't be kept because we closed the schools." The list posted at the new bond web site does include those projects (see Amay James and Davidson IB).

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff!!

Today's CO overcrowding in many of the South Charlotte schools article only talks about the explosion in gross student numbers in South Charlotte schools. It fails to talk about how the exploding student to teacher ratios and all of the brand new teachers in these same schools are negatively impacting education in the classroom.

Anne, any chance of asking questions about how student teacher ratios that have been exploding since 2007, and brand new teachers being thrown to the wolves in Ardrey Kell, Community House and many of the other South Charlotte schools?

Anonymous said...

While I have absolutely nothing to add to the issues addressed in this article, for me it was amazing to see a discussion that was civil, intelligent and respectful by people who are obviously passionate about our school system. Now that is progress!

Anonymous said...

Link to updated 2007 Bond list (dated 9/9/13)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 11:53! I'm chuckling because you beat the CMS staff on this one (I had emailed them this morning asking for an updated list). For those interested, after you go to the link above, look for "Project Promises" under Publications.

Anonymous said...

Is CMS ever going to change boundaries so that Community House Middle gets some relief? There are a lot less students at JA Robinson Middle-why is that? Funny that of the suburban schools listed as overcrowded-JA Robinson isn't one of them. Why-what is their secret? Ha

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wiley. It appears Jeff R was at the very least being deceptive in the way he presented the info. Actually this may qualify him to move into CMS admin.
Perhaps we have found something productive for one of the Asst Superintendents: count how many students go in & out of the mobiles?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:34.

No one cares about the kids in the "rich", "privileged", "advantaged" suburbs.

Except when it's time for them to give more.

In todays politically corrected environment, it's all about the "minorities", "disadvantaged", and "at-risk".

We can only dream about "separate but equal"...

Anonymous said...

"None of our grade levels are currently being housed in mobiles"


So how are we to parse this statement for THE TRUTH about kids being taught in mobiles?

Does it REALLY mean:

No kids being taught in mobiles?

A few kids in mobiles, but not an entire grade's worth?

A lot of kids in mobiles, but from various grades, so that no particular "grade" is mostly in mobiles/

Only some classes (but not the entire range of subjects for any given grade) are being taught in mobiles.

etc., etc., etc.

Is it any wonder people don't trust educrats to tell the truth?

Gee, either the mobiles are on the property or not.

(Apparently, they are).

And either kids are being taught in them or not.

(Apparently, they are).

There isn't a large cell tower near this campus by any chance, is there?

Shamash said...


Counting mobiles on school property is where your theory that 1+1=2 falls apart within CMS.

(Now if 6 turned out to be 9,
I don't mind, I don't mind...)

dscienceguy said...

What is interesting is a principal at a school is able to post on a blog during school hours. Is the school on a year-round schedule which has no students at this time? Is the school going so well that his time there should be reduced (with a corresponding reduction in pay)? How would a teacher be rated on his/her evaluation should the principal see them "blogging" during school hours? So many questions...

Wiley Coyote said...


I was pretty sure the mobiles were still there. I drive by that school probably 6 or 7 times per month but he said they had been removed, I took his word for it and apologized. If I'm wrong on something I always admit to it.

In this case, I had to see for myself and of course I was correct all along.

Also, the school opened I believe in 2002/2003. By 2004, there were 2 mobiles on the property and by 2005 there were 10, validating my comment that the school was essentially overcrowded before it was opened. In Oct. 2007, there were 22 mobiles on the property. In 2012 they were back down to 12.

Great thing about Google Earth and the ability to view the same area at different time intervals.

This is why you vote no on bonds until someone with CMS gets a clue.

Anonymous said...

I emailed Jeffrey Ruppenthal to alert him to these questions -- as one commenter noted, he probably doesn't have time to browse comments all day. Here's his response: "Yes there are mobiles on the campus but they are just being housed here and moved when the district needs them (thankfully they are not needed as in years’ past because of the commitment by the district). We are utilizing one for our music classes and another for pre-K speech students. There’s nothing deceptive about our enrollment – that’s public record."

Anonymous said...


Dead Mobile Storage.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:53,

Great question!!! Why is Community House Middle School the largest middle school in the Carolina's still growing and JM Robinson Middle School isn't even on the list?

Both feed Ardrey Kell and from what AK teachers tell me the JMRMS kids are much better prepared for high school despite both middle schools following the same curriculum.

Anonymous said...

The unused mobiles are not currently needed because of Mountain Island Charter School, Lincoln Charter School, Lake Norman Charter School and a LACK of commitment from the district.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:31, not 12:53

Wiley Coyote said...

Using mobiles for pre-K and music is still using mobiles due to lack of space.

Stating he had none on the property is in my book being deceptive and the fact within a year or so of opening mobiles were brought in and having up to 22 on the property within 4 years, shows the mismanagement of CMS in projecting school space.

Which leads to other questions.

If CMS has 8 to 10 unused mobiles sitting at MIE, why can't they move those to another school to help alleviate overcrowded classrooms?

How many mobiles district-wide does CMS have sitting empty that could be utilized?

And if CMS has many empty mobiles, (while not ideal in the longrun) why can't they be used instead of bonds to add onto some schools for a couple of years to see where the growth is going?

This business of closing schools, then opening them back up, consolidating schools, asking for bond monies to renovate and replace schools when other bond monies have yet to be spent from nearly six years ago, is absurd.

Pamela Grundy said...

Wiley, he never stated there were no mobiles on the property. He said there were fewer than there used to be, and that no grade levels were housed there. Look back through the conversation. Good grief. What a waste of everyone's time.

Wiley Coyote said...


Jeff Ruppenthal said...
Have you looked at our property? I'm looking over a large field where mobiles once stood.

You see it as a waste of time. I see it as telling it like it is and cutting through the status quo BS.

You can continue to stick your head in the dirt and believe everything is wonderful with public education, that's fine.

Some of us know differently.

Pamela Grundy said...

How do you interpret "I'm looking over a large field where mobiles once stood" as saying that there are no mobiles on the property? He was answering your question about whether the school had room to expand. Again, good grief.

Ashley Holmes said...

Pamela, I read Mr. Ruppenthal's posts the same was as Wiley did, indicating that there were no mobiles.

However after re-reading his posts he did specifically state that grade levels were not being housed in mobiles, thus leaving open the possibility that some mobiles were being used.

Wiley, I do not believe he was trying to misinform, his point was just not articulated very well.

Wiley Coyote said...

Perhaps you should go back and read the threads where I stated there were 12 mobiles at MIE, to which he responded he saw nothing but land looking out his window.

You interpret his comment the way you want and I'll interpret it as how I read it in the flow of the conversation.

It wasn't until I pointed out the verification of the existance of the mobiles did he acknowledge they were there.

I know there is land there to put another small building or two, but the fact is that school doesn't have the property to expand fully to K-8 because if they did, the school wouldn't have to use Coulwood athletic facilities.

Which again, why waste money at MIE when Coulwood already has athletic facilities and space?

...Mountain Island Elementary School in Charlotte would also be expanded to include kindergarten through eighth grades. Its expansion would allow students to continue a science, technology, engineering and math focus, or STEM, through eighth grade.

Though no athletics would be available at Mountain Island Elementary, students would be able to participate in them at Coulwood. The expansion will also result in a smaller enrollment at Coulwood and require the use of mobile units for grades six to eight.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, stick to FRL. You look like less of a fool when you discuss that topic.

Anonymous said...

JR needs to attend a writing class. I am sure he didn't intend to ....
Oh what the heck. CMS is just a broken mess.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 4:16...

Thanks for the input but I stand by my comments and the facts, no matter what the subject is.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that CMS is serious about K-8 @ MIE. The word a year ago was that they would never voluntarily overcrowd a school and require mobiles. Then the bond info came out last spring and K-8 was back on the table. It took lots of questions from parents before CMS acknowledged that the current bond vote does not include funding for MIE K-8. Approval is supposed to be contingent on a BOE vote and some other funding source.

Anonymous said...

CMS, please hurry with the K-8 STEM school in the south charlotte area. Why no magnet schools down here? Geez.

Anonymous said...

Vote NO for MOrrison !

Shamash said...


For what it's worth, I read his comments the same way you did.

And I do believe my reading comprehension skills are beyond reproach.

(Based on standardized testing, of course...)

Anonymous said...

When is the Montessori high school coming???????

Anonymous said...

Wiley and Shamash you guys have an inherent bias in reading these comments, everyone does. But to presume that a principal of a CMS school to be deliberately misleading is hilarious.

I live in the Mountain Island area too, but knew those mobiles were largely unused from talking with MIE parents and faculty. Funny how that works.

Wiley Coyote said...


Stick to the facts of the matter.

Funny how they work.