Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CMS bus and bell report: How independent?

A consultant's report giving Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools mostly positive reviews on its recent decisions about busing and bell schedules is bound to revive questions about the source.

Some commenters have suggested all along that CMS is paying the Council of the Great City Schools up to $18,000 to get a foregone conclusion. Skeptics note that the council is a membership organization made up of about 65 large school districts,  including CMS,  and that Superintendent Heath Morrison is a member of the board's executive committee.  They say that hardly constitutes the independent review that Morrison and school board Chair Mary McCray touted when they announced the study this summer.

During Monday's video conference with reporters,  Executive Director Michael Casserly was quick to note that the council is known for being tough on member districts that seek advice.  The council has done more than 250 reviews on various subjects,  he said,  and  "the vast majority of them have been extremely hard-hitting and critical."

One of those reports,  Morrison added,  was the organizational review of CMS he commissioned when he started this job in 2012.  That report cited several weak points,  including "illogical and inappropriate"  organizational structures,  "a lack of confidence or trust"  among citizens and employees,  and hiring processes that  "appear to be inadequate or ignored,  labor-intensive,  slow and cumbersome,  and subject to high error rates."

"That was a hard-hitting audit.  People were really shocked that I released that publicly,  but I had made a commitment to do that,"  Morrison said Monday.  "The quality of their work is second to none. You don't go to the Council of the Great City Schools asking them to lift you up and make you feel warm and happy about yourself."

Susan Plaza,  the parent who has been leading the push for change in bell schedules,  said Monday she's optimistic that Morrison is sincere about working with her group to come up with real solutions.  He's gearing up another task force to study school hours,  which will include members of Plaza's group and will meet publicly.

Interestingly,  Morrison's own two children experience opposite ends of the bell-schedule spectrum.  One attends South Meck High, with the traditional 7:15 to 2:15 high school schedule that some say is too early for teens to be fully alert for morning classes.  The other attends Northwest School of the Arts,  which is on the 9:15 to 4:15 late schedule,  which other families say squeezes out evening time for homework,  family and after-school activities.

When asked about his thoughts as a dad,  Morrison noted that he and CMS lawyer George Battle both have kids in late-bell schools.  "Both of us have said we actually like the late bell,"  Morrison said. But he said that doesn't mean he's dismissing concerns.  Instead,  he said,  he's aware that there are legitimate differences of opinion on all the bell questions,  and that's a big reason he wants to hold plenty of public discussions before making changes.


Dr. Phil said...

Parents and teachers made the same suggestions to CMS years ago. So, the info coming from this group in regards to buses and bell schedules is nothing new, it's been out there. Now, will CMS act on this info? Like expanding the no transportation zone to 1 -1.5 to eliminate the need for more buses and to decrease bus runs so that the 7:15am and 9:15am start times are not needed.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an 8:15 to 3:15 bell should satisfy these warring factions.

Please send my $18,000 fee in bitcoins.

Wiley Coyote said...

It's October 15, 2013 and we have a school district that doesn't have a clue as to what the optimum times to start school are.

...He's gearing up another task force to study school hours

...He wants to hold plenty of public discussions before making changes

..."Both of us have said we actually like the late bell"

Book a conference room and talk it to death.

That should do it.

Anonymous said...

8:17 It's not that simple, unfortunately. The district needs to transport approx. 90,000 students a day. They can't all start at 8:15am. But, they don't have to start school at 7:15am or 9:15am either. They can condense the tiers and start schools at 7:45am, starting every 15 minutes til 9:00. This would include having to expand the No Transportation zone to 1 or 1.5 miles. This would enable buses to run to 2-3 schools every AM and PM for efficiency, and decrease the number of actual riders.

Anonymous said...


Parents, please check out the Start School Later website and Facebook pages. There is a national push right now to persuade school districts to start schools at more sensible and reasonable times, especially for our high school students.

Anonymous said...

Promote legislation to prevent public schools from starting before 8 a.m.

Considerable research confirms the relationship between school start times, sleep deprivation, and student performance, truancy, and absenteeism, as well as depression, mood swings, impulse control, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making, obesity, stimulant abuse, automobile accidents, and suicide. Mounting evidence about the biology of adolescent sleep, and about the impact of later start times, shows that starting school before 8 a.m. not only undermines academic achievement but endangers health and safety. Because logistical and financial issues prevent local school systems from establishing safe and educationally defensible hours, however, legislation mandating start times consistent with student health and educational well-being is essential.

Sign our national petition at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to/?source=search

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:25,

You state that expanding the No Transportation zone will reduce the number of "actual riders".

It's important to state that the number of buses is not determined by the number of "actual riders", but instead by the number of eligible riders. The difference being the reason so many buses are often nearly empty since so many students who are eligible to ride the bus don't!

Christine Mast said...

"That was a hard-hitting (operational) audit. People were really shocked that I released that publicly, but I had made a commitment to do that," Morrison said Monday.

Ann, I may bit a little off topic, but to your knowledge, has Dr. Morrison implemented any of the changes suggested in the Operational Audit? If so, when and which ones?

Anonymous said...

I've got three elementary schools within less than 1.8 miles of my house and my kids home school is 2.7 miles away. If you want to increase the no transportation zone, will I be able to go to a school closer to my house. Other than that, your suggestion of expanding the No Transportation zone is indicative of the lack of thinking that goes on out in the boonies - less public transportation and more cars on the road during rush hour.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you and other parents are complaining about how early your kids are waking up, then how much TIME would you save by driving your kid to school vs. making them take the bus?

I can (and do) drive my kid to school in under 10 minutes, the bus takes at least 30 to cover the same distance.

We have kids who catch the bus from our neighborhood BEFORE my kid is out of bed. And we're never late.

Anonymous said...

Christine, clearly he has made changes in organizational personnel and structure, from naming not one but two new HR chiefs in the past year and restructuring the learning communities. But how closely those track that audit I couldn't say.

Anonymous said...

As far as buses go, I will not let my little ones stand in the dark before 7am (which the kids are doing in our neighborhood currently) to catch a bus. It is irresponsible of CMS, and a safety concern that elementary school buses come before 7am (or civil twilight - when it's light enough out to be safe).

Most of the kids in the south Charlotte area (50% +) are driven to school now anyways. And high schools, that's another story altogether. Most high school students drive or carpool with buddies, or the parents drive the student to school. If you do ride the bus to high school, you get to sit on the bus in the parking lot for 10-15 minutes until the school doors open at 6:45am. One can get to school faster by driving, and get some much needed extra sleep and have time to eat some breakfast if you do drive yourself, or your child to school.

Most of the buses are at 50% capacity or less because the "eligible" riders aren't even riding the buses. CMS knows this (without a study) and could decrease the number of buses running today and save millions of dollars.

Wiley Coyote said...

Restructuring the Learning Communities? Morrison? So what?

April, 2010:

...As part of the budget reductions for fiscal year 2010-2011, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced a plan to reorganize the district’s learning communities into five zones instead of the current seven, and the Achievement Zone will be eliminated.

The move will reduce learning community staffing from 55 positions to 30, with a total expected savings of $3.6 million....

...CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman has made it clear that although there will be cuts at the central office, schools that were in the Achievement Zone will keep their school-based staffing, such as extra teachers, security officers and counselors.

From the current CMS website:

...Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is organized into seven learning communities. The current structure was created under the leadership of Dr. Heath E. Morrison, superintendent, and took effect July 1, 2013. It is part of an overall district reorganization that reconfigured central-services departments supporting schools.

So we go from seven to five, then back to seven? And this is some whoop-de-doo accomplishment?

So Heath. How much did the expansion cost taxpayers? Gorman cut $3.6 million going from seven to five.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss and the older boss and so on and so on....

Anonymous said...

CMS should use more short buses.

Anonymous said...

CMS should look at expanding the Cato Middle High school "type" program throughout CMS. By the way, they start classes at 11:20am.

Anonymous said...

3:55, they are expanding Cato-style schools. One opening at CPCC Levine campus in January, another at Harper campus in August 2014.

Wiley Coyote said...


AND...CMS will be providing $40,000 dollars in bus passes, paid for by the County, to get them there.

Yet one BOE member would just as soon eliminate or drastically curtail magnet transportation.

Anonymous said...

Enoughwith this topic! Too much time and too much money spent! I have children on the latest bell schedule, I don't love it; but, I would rather see us worry more about what our legislators are up to, what the county commissioners are thinking about, how we're going to improve teacher pay so we don't loose all our teachers to other states.... There are far more important issues to worry about than a school bell!

Anonymous said...

Certainly could have saved some money with this late friendly report. Smells like a Parks Helms Del Frisco Dinner to me and that was only half the price. Heath you know this is to a building of trust in the community. Many others have provided you with the negative facts regarding the late bell. It has caused poor morale with teacher, parents and students. It has not saved you any shell game bus money either. This is a chance for you to make your first major decision as we wait. It's been over 1 year so please saddle up and join us. Vote No Bonds ! Keith W. Hurley

Garris G. said...

I have 3 kids in CMS, 1 middle school (late bell) and 2 in high school (early bell). Bell schedules get people riled up because they are personal, they affect the quality of life at our home, our childrens' emotional and physical health and all of our schedules. To be honest, we have liked the late bell (9:15) and have had a lot more problems with the early bell schedule (7:15am).

Anonymous said...

CMS needs a magnet train.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:46-no more trains those lead to tax increases. We are being lied to already and promised no increase with the potential bonds. If bonds won't increase our taxes then go ahead and lower some rather than inflate my property value! Please don't give these fools a idea like a train they might think your serious. Vote No Bonds ! Keith W. Hurley

Wiley Coyote said...


The new government standard is 400% or $94,200..... and most people don't realize it.

Barb said...

Magnet school transportation is 3X that of the neighborhood school transportation costs. Magnet parents should absolutely bear the cost of the additional $900 per year, per student.

Wiley Coyote said...


Then so should every student who will attend the two new schools at CPCC.

Maybe those students who ride a bus to their neighborhood school should pay 1/3 of the cost since many parents take their kids to school and never ride the bus.

Anonymous said...

Someone should talk to Patrick Cannon about starting a bus company.

Barb said...

Wiley, bus transportation to the home school should be provided, or each rider should pay a nominal fee of $100 per year for the service. That's fine. But when Magnet costs are 3-4X what it is for neighborhood schools, ABSOLUTELY there should be a fee involved. The Magnet bus routes are what cause all the added resources and issues in the CMS transportation dept. And sure, charge the CPCC students too if they are using the service. I imagine most, if not all of them (juniors and seniors) are driving themselves to school at 11am for classes anyways.

Anonymous said...

To Wiley 7:41AM - hmmmm Wiley, that doesn't sound like you. Wanting everyone else to pay the additional costs for your son to go to a magnet school?

Anonymous said...


But don't the "at risk" kids have a constitutional right to a free ride?

I guess we'll find out soon.

Wiley Coyote said...


CMS offers magnets as part of public education. I don't care if it costs 3 times the dollars to bus students to those schools.

Perhaps we should require every student who plays a sport to provide for their transportation for away games.

My point about charging extra for anyone to ride a bus, whether you're a mile or less from the school or five miles, is the same as those whining about magnet transportation costs. No difference.

Barb, regarding the proposed CPCC high schools, WE, the taxpayers through the county, are paying $40,000 in vouchers for those who want to ride a city bus to get there. Again, if we're going to do this, then magnet transportation is a moot point.

And to 8:39, I tell you what. I'll agree to eliminating ALL magnet transportation when you get the USDA to allow a full audit of the $35 million dollars CMS gets for the school lunch program.

Doing so will kick off thousands who are gaming the system and all the persks that come with it. That way, you me and other taxpayers won't have to overpay for benefits, as you don't want to overpay for transportation.


Anonymous said...

The cms magnet students are getting something that the rest of the cms students are not. They are getting basically a private education at tax payer expense (ie; free) and free transportation. Practically empty buses are criss-crossing the county on a daily basis transporting magnet school students. Thus, the crazy school start and end times.

There is a difference between extra curricular activities, whether it's band, debate, sports, JR ROTC and attending a non-home Magnet school. Wiley, we know better than that.

Wiley Coyote said...


The BOE ended magnets criss crossing all over the county and implemented drop points.

Again, it's called public education and EVERY child has the same opportunity to attend a magnet as the next.

Either do away with ALL magnets, including schools like Waddell and all these STEAM and STEM schools popping up or put all the programs in every neighborhood school, which you and I both know will never happen.

I watched last week a school bus drop off 13 kids into a sub-division near my house, elementary through what looked like middle school.

The nearest elementary is 3 blocke away and the middle school is one mile. At the drop, there were two cars picking up kids.

Why didn't these parents go pick their kids up?

Why am I paying for these kids to ride a bus 3 blocks or 10 blocks?

Multiply that scenario all over the county and magnet transportation seems like a bargain.

But then again, we know better than that, don't we?

Anonymous said...

I love how everytime CMS errs, it's because they didn't 'communicate.' Not because of what they actually did.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, there are so many holes in your argument I don't know where to start. So I won't, Go Tigers!

Wiley Coyote said...

8:22...there are no holes....that's why you have no argument.

Anonymous said...

In response to 6:27 Wiley, "BOE ended magnets criss crossing all over the county and implemented drop points" as you stated.

FYI,We have 3 magnet buses come to our very south charlotte neighborhood everyday, in addition to our neighborhood HS, MS and ES. They don't even stop at the front of our neighborhood to pick up a total of 4 students, but come all the way in and have to spend 5 minutes doing a 3 point turn at a busy intersection. Just making my point.

Also, magnets are not open to ALL students as you state. There are requirements and the lottery does not allow all students access. An acknowledgement of magnet program expectations and the magnet entrance and continuation requirements for the theme being applied to is necessary in order to complete and submit the online lottery application form and the Request for Reassignment/Transfer form. Please visit the Magnet Expectations Agreement page of the Magnet website for additional program-specific entrance and continuation requirements information.

Anonymous said...


The entertainment factor associated with your posts never disappoints. Sadly, the factual basis of the have become very disappointing, of late.

It reminds me of how my mother used to tell my sisters and me that just because someone yells the loudest, or the most, doesn't make them right.

Just saying!

Wiley Coyote said...


Still no substance from you regarding the supposed holes in my post(s)..

Keep trying though.

Anonymous said...

Wiley you said:

"The BOE ended magnets crisscrossing all over the county and implemented drop points."

FALSE CMS did institute some drop points, but not all students use them, nor did this stop CMS magnet buses from crisscrossing the district.

"Again, it's called public education and EVERY child has the same opportunity to attend a magnet as the next."

FALSE Not every CMS student has the same opportunity to attend a magnet as the next, due to the many criteria used to determine who does and doesn't get to attend these schools.

Wiley Coyote said...


Jul 29, 2010...The district says it's up to parents to get kids to and from these specialized schools and if it's a issue, parents have the option to pull their kids from the magnet schools. ...This change will save the district about $4 million, but it will cost parents a possible major inconvenience.

Also, magnets are not discriminatory. Every child DOES have an opportunity to attend a magnet school. That is exactly what was stated. We all know there are criteria by magnet to attend but the opportunity IS there. 99% of people already know there are criteria to meet so there was no need to state it.

From the CMS website:

Parents are encouraged to consider their child's abilities, aptitudes, and talents when considering the magnet theme offerings in CMS. If parents find a magnet theme that is a good fit for their child and enroll their child in a magnet school that uses that theme, then their child is likely to find the learning experience more pertinent to their interests and will be more engaged in the lessons.

Magnets are a choice and open to anyone who sees a particular magnet as an enhancement in their childs education experience.


Barb S. said...

Some Magnet programs provide county-wide transportation, meaning that regardless of your zone, or where you live you would receive free transportation.

Anonymous said...

May I add my two cents, I have worked at a CMS magnet school and they are wonderful options for students and parents, but there are certain entrance requirements and expectations of the students. Not all students are eligible for these programs.

Ngyuen One said...

My husband and I are relatively new to the Charlotte area and we are interested at the offerings by the local Magnet schools. The innovative instructional programs and proven results in student achievement and growth are impressive. Why is this type of program not being offered at the neighborhood schools? We have an elementary school right around the corner from us. I would imagine it is due to the additional costs of the magnet program, otherwise each neighborhood school would be run on this model.

Anonymous said...


As the most frequent poster on all things CMS related, please, please, please don't insult our intelligence by suggesting every CMS student has an opportunity to attend a magnet school can, because there simply are not enough magnet school seats to accommodate every CMS student.

Secondly, you of all people should know that what CMS "says" doesn't always bear itself out to be true.

But, thanks for maintaining the entertainment factor of what might otherwise be a boring topic.

Wiley Coyote said...


As I have previously stated, the opportunity is there for every child. I never said every child would get a seat nor did I state every child would qualify.

An opportunity is a chance. It is up to the parent to decide to take the chance to enroll their child if they feel the magnet will benefit their child. If they qualify, they qualify. If they don't then at least they had an opportunity to try.

As with magnets, sports are the same. The opportunity to play a sport is there. Whether you have the talent to make the team is up to the kid trying out, but at least they have a chance, an opportunity.

But surely someone with your intelligence would already understand these points and not be insulted, as I am not insulted by your comment that I should know CMS is not always truthfull.

Susan Plaza said...

I have spent way too much time dealing with CMS Transportation on this topic. The majority of CMS magnet students have door to door service. There are a handful of K-8 and 6-12 schools with shuttle stops, only for kids 5 miles or more from the school. All other students have bus service to their home. Ask Carol Stamper.