Thursday, April 24, 2014

Renaissance West chooses CMS over charter

This week's announcement of a new  "partnership school"  being developed on West Boulevard highlights a new twist in the CMS/charter dynamic.  It's a model Superintendent Heath Morrison says we'll see more of in the future,  in the suburbs as well as inner-city neighborhoods.

Renaissance West senior center
The preK-8 school,  which Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools plans to open in 2017, will be part of the Renaissance West revitalization project rising from the site of the old Boulevard Homes public housing.  As Hilary Trenda reports,  that project has been years in the making,  with the Charlotte Housing Authority winning a $21 million federal Hope VI grant in 2010.  At that time, the plan called for a CMS school to be part of the project.

But the recession hit and construction money dried up.  The Renaissance West Community Initiative,  a nonprofit created by the housing authority, shifted to planning a charter school.  If the application had been approved,  the nonprofit board would have gotten public money to open a preK-8 school in 2015. The group was scheduled for an interview with the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board in May.

Renaissance West is a "cradle to career" community,  which seeks to break the cycle of poverty with a mix of high-quality child care,  public education,  health care and support services.  Charter schools are a crucial piece in such national models as the Harlem Children's Zone and Atlanta's East Lake revival.  The latter spurred creation of the Purpose-Built Community Network,  which RWCI is working with.
Site for Renaissance West Neighborhood Academy charter

In 2013,  Mecklenburg voters approved a $290 million bond package that included $30 million to build a school that would relieve crowding at Reid Park and Berryhill preK-8 schools.  It would have gone near the proposed charter,  potentially competing for students.

Meanwhile,  Morrison and Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark were talking with the RWCI crew about merging their efforts. Executive Director Laura Clark said her board saw two big advantages to working with CMS:  The nonprofit board won't have to raise construction money,  and CMS can draw boundaries that ensure the Renaissance West community is served by the school.  Charter schools take applications and,  if there's overflow demand,  have to admit by lottery.  If the community charter school had proven successful,  she said,  neighborhood students might have been turned away on luck of the draw.

RWCI won't have the clout of the Project LIFT board,  which got joint power over academic and personnel decisions at nine westside schools by merit of a $55 million, five-year pledge.  But CMS and RWCI say the partnership will be a serious one,  with both groups and other community partners represented on a school leadership council.

At a Wednesday news conference,  Morrison said he's talking to other existing and prospective charter boards about the advantages of working as part of CMS.  He noted that some of the state-authorized schools,  which aren't part of local districts, are struggling:  "So many individuals think they know how to run a school,  only to learn there's so much that's so complicated."

I'm guessing some will see this as a CMS bid to squelch competition,  while others will see a perfect example of how competition can improve the broader system of public education.  One question I felt certain would arise:  Will CMS be equally receptive when a more affluent suburban neighborhood wants to develop a partnership school for its community?

Absolutely,  Morrison said.  He anticipates a similar relationship with south suburban Ballantyne residents when the district starts working on the K-8 neighborhood/magnet school authorized for that area.  That school,  budgeted for a bit over $31 million,  is expected to open in 2020,  the last item in the 2013 bond package.


Larry said...

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

See how things change for the best, when folks start working for the best ends.

Anonymous said...

fyi for all those reading...unhealthy school start times play a major role in undermining academic achievement, especially of lower income teens. A story in yesterday's LA Times says lower income teens are much likely to get less sleep, fragmented sleep and that leads to increased health issues. Wake up CMS, you are doing ALL of your teens a disservice by starting high schools at 7:15am.

Shamash said...

I guess there's nothing wrong with throwing everything you've got at the "problem" to see if it goes away.

But even certain lottery winners seem to find themselves back in poverty after a few years wild ride.

So we'll just have to see how this "experiment" works out.

I just hope someone is collecting the proper data so we can see if it REALLY "works" aside from the typical anecdotal evidence from those who REALLY benefit (such as the various "support" staff on the payroll).

Wiley Coyote said...

..."that project has been years in the making"....

..."But the recession hit and construction money dried up. The Renaissance West Community Initiative, a nonprofit created by the housing authority, shifted to planning a charter school."...

Riiight... so let's let taxpayers pay for another school using "overcrowding" as the excuse.

Who is kidding whom? This isn't cradle to career. It's the same model of cradle to grave taxpayer support.

Here's the real kicker:

...and CMS can draw boundaries that ensure the Renaissance West community is served by the school.

Okay folks. That little ditty can open it up for groups in the north and Ballentyne areas to demand CMS allow school boundaries to be gerrymandered to ensure only high income students have their own schools from "cradle to carrer" if they toss in some of their own money.

And they have Morrison's own words to back it up:

It's a model Superintendent Heath Morrison says we'll see more of in the future, in the suburbs as well as inner-city neighborhoods.

Back to the Future IV....

Shamash said...

Anon 6:55am.

Yeah, here's that LA Times article:,0,5868312.story

And the actual study:

Sleep in Healthy Black and White Adolescents

Conclusion: Black male participants had the least amount of sleep, which may play a role in the substantial risks experienced by this demographic group.

Not particularly insightful, is it? Says nothing about whether later school times would help this or not.

Did these black males go to school earlier or just stay up later (maybe playing "Midnight Basketball")?

No one seemed willing to dig in and tell us exactly WHY these particular kids seem to get less sleep or what could help them best in this study, so make up whatever "cure" you wish...

Just as long as you don't include anything like personal responsibility or parental controls over bedtimes and OTHER behavior.

Not sure if this AAP "study" got as much press...

Adolescents Living the 24/7 Lifestyle: Effects of Caffeine and Technology on Sleep Duration and Daytime Functioning

If the Renaissance West Community is responsible, they WILL NOT allow a Starbucks to open nearby.

Shamash said...

As the twig is bent...

Gosh, here's another AAP study:

Television Viewing, Bedroom Television, and Sleep Duration From Infancy to Mid-Childhood

" we demonstrated that sub-groups of young children, in particular, boys and racial/ethnic minorities, may be more vulnerable to TV’s effects on sleep. TV viewing and the presence of a bedroom TV track over time."

H'mm, "boys and racial/ethnic minorities..." with sleep problems BEFORE adolescence, too.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Couldn't be those TV's (and other electronics) in the bedrooms or late at night, though, could it?

Maybe a little poor parenting, too?

But, of course, we can't SAY that.

So, let's just change things external to the family and see if that solves the "problem".

Until we get the next excuse.

Oh, wait, there's still "poverty", so let's give everyone more money, too.

But make them promise not to buy more electronics with it.

Sure, why not? The nanny state can do it all.

Just keep careful track of who REALLY benefits.

Anonymous said...

I applaud CMS for taking this approach, I hope this will be a positive for those students and the community.

Zillo said...

A comment on the sleep issue being discussed here. Teens need their sleep, most only get 6 hours a night but they need 8-9 hours per night. The sleep deprivation adds up and does affect learning, mood and overall health. I agree that our highschool kids would do better with later times. I think in the lower income homes, there is certainly less overall parental oversight and the children are not on a schedule (say like my children). It is unfortunate, and this is just one more example that lower income kids are at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

Ironic, just read in the Washington Post that Fairfax, VA high school times are being pushed back to later start times due to all of the medical evidence stating later school start times are more beneficial to health and academics of teenage students. Congrats to them for making a positive change for all their students!

Unknown said...


Partnership A on the westside gets $9,000 per student.
Partnership B in Ballantyne gets $4,500 per student.

The board of the Ballantyne group, now a legal entity with substantial resources, is in a position to go to court over the unequal distribution.

This is just the thing south Charlotte residents have been hoping for to resolve the draining of funds to urban districts.

Bolyn McClung

Shamash said...

Anons 9:31 am and 10:03am

I have no problem with schools changing their start times.

As long as it works for most of the students and parents.

Especially the ones who really try and care about their education.

I just don't want people to think that this will automatically solve the teen "lack of sleep" issue for everyone.

It won't.

The fact that this seems to be becoming a cause for the "poor disadvantaged minorities" makes me more than a bit suspicious.

Since it's always ALL "for the children".

But that can be a slippery slope into bottomless pit for some.

Shamash said...


Go Ballantyne!

They're overdue some "equity".

Even if their kids and parents aren't low performers.

Anonymous said...

Since they are using "public funds", I think the public should be made aware of who is being paid what salary to keep this area up and running, including all the secretaries, board members of this "non-profit" or close them down if they refuse.

I also think that because we are using "public money" that the public should have a say in what the children are taught including starting at the cradle "do not procreate unless you are in a healthy stable relationship with a steady well paying job". Teaching that alone will end all of the "cradle to career" malarkey.

Wiley Coyote said...

Shamash, Bolyn...

All the Ballantynians have to do is get all the kids in the area to apply for Free & Reduced lunches.

No one audits the program, so they will get all sorts of freebies from the Federal Government once the poverty threshold has been met under Title I.

Unknown said...


Sorry, you're wrong.

Eventually someone will walk through the school cafeteria and see all the silver spoons in the dishwasher.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...


It's simple math.

CMS can only audit 3% of the total student population.

Only 4,278 kids can be audited, spread out over 159(+/-) schools that comes out to be 29.6 students per school.

...but you got the point the first time.

Shamash said...


Gee, why do you keep going on about FRL fraud?

Don't you trust the "disadvantaged"?

You know it's "all for the children".

Wake County Public Schools had a nonresponse rate of 36 percent and a total reduced or repealed rate of 64 percent for its verification sample in 2007–08.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg had a nonresponse rate of 31 percent and a reduced or repealed rate of 68 percent for the same school year.

Shamash said...


That FRL reference also contains the classic line:

“Poor people don’t know how to steal from the federal government. They’re not smart enough,” said school board member Vilma Leake.

Ya gotta love it when the "truth" finally comes out the wrong end.

Wiley Coyote said...


Leake's comment is precisely why public education is in the toilet.

Her mindset is and has been part of the problem by much of the liberal crowd which continues today.

The sad truth is, she and others will do all they can to perpetuate the mantra that poor people are "not smart enough to steal", get a voter ID or think for themselves and need government to do everything for them.

I am 100% for helping anyone who truly needs it and there are many. I still hold out hope that if we can cut out the abuse and fraud across all government programs, that there will be a time a generation would be helped honestly and the numbers who would need help going forward would be reduced dramatically.

Unfortunately, the good intentions of trying to do that over the past 45 years or so have failed.

"So many individuals think they know how to run a school, only to learn there's so much that's so complicated." ...Morrison

Well Mr. Morrison. Perhaps you should have someone teach you how to do it because I don't see you doing anything different than the last 5 status quo superintendents.

At least Gorman had the guts to make the hard choices when it came to budget cuts and closing schools.

Anonymous said...

The district is to big. Bigger is not always better. I do agree with Heath, that's schools are complicated. So many federal and state regulations. Grant money, CTE money letters from Eric Holder threatening action. I am not even going to jump into Special Education, but we must loose one forest a year on that paper work.

Anonymous said...

If this country is going to remain competitive, someone is going to have to break public education and start over from scratch. I don't mean tinker around the edges; I mean smash it to smithereens. The way you fix a huge lumbering old corporation that hasn't caught up to the 21st century. Heath certainly isn't the one to do it. Even if he had an innovative thought in his head, entrenched rules, unions and politicians would never allow it to happen.

Anonymous said...

What union, your in North Carolina son!!

Anonymous said...

6:25 It's called the NCAE and is one of the state's best-funded lobbying organizations.

Do a web search on NCAE and you get this:

North Carolina Association of Educators: NCAE‎
Union representing teachers in the state. Affiliated with the NEA

It looks like a union, smells like a union and describes itself as a union. Just don't call it a union.

NC said...

Congratulations on adhering to a low-cost, evidence-based approach to helping children and families. I skimmed the comments, and find that many people need to be made aware that this effort has cost zero dollars so far of public funds, and that by keeping the pre-K-8 school as a CMS school, we are (a) ensuring low opportunity costs by leveraging existing infrastructure while keeping dollars already allocated for education in the system; (b) requiring transparency and progress metrics as per the well oiled CMS accountability system; (c ) will be providing cost-savings estimates using ROI parameters. What's not to love?

I believe the Ballantyne comment made by Heath Morrison was a purely sincere, open-ended offer to partner with people offering community-based solutions to localized issues. Children in various parts of the city, regardless of SES, deserve high quality, comprehensive educational approaches.

Anonymous said...

No collective bargaining, teachers do not have the right to strike and what percentage of NC teachers are actually members? If it is a union, it sucks. 7 years without a raise.. All the teachers I have talk to dislike Common Core but the NCAE is defending it. This is not the north y'all..

Anonymous said...

it's amusing to me how this blog starts on one topic and ends on a completely unrelated topic, teacher Unions, which we DO NOT have in North Carolina. Look at what teachers in this state are paid and you want to argue that they have a union. I hope this joint venture program is successful. With regards to the inequity in student funding, there is probably little difference between both groups with regards o what is being spent in the classroom, the added expense for the poor kids are other items such as free lunch, which the kids in Ballyntine don't need.

Anonymous said...

The NCAE in NC is as ineffective in NC as the General Assembly. It represents such a small percentage of NC teachers that most only join for legal protection from administrative harassment. That it is a part of the national union is meaningless in this state.

We can certainly agree on the Mercedes and corsage traveling road show. I remember more than one diva entrance at the West Meck football games a decade ago. Only things missing were a crown and scepter.

Shamash said...

NCAE doesn't have bargaining rights, so it's not a union in the usual sense.

Even if you get that statement saying they're a union when you Google their site.

Shamash said...


Give a man a handout and you feed him for a day, teach a man to steal from the federal government and you feed him for a lifetime.

If "poor people" are TRULY not "smart enough to steal from the federal government", then I'm sure there's training for that.

Of course, the poverty pushers wouldn't approve of that because then they'd be out of a lucrative job.

At least the illegal immigrants have figured out how to do this and they are usually poor.

Maybe someone can subcontract La Raza for training.

(BTW, La Raza isn't a union either, but they do have tremendous "bargaining power" with the US government)

Shamash said...

Anon 12:57am

"the added expense for the poor kids are other items such as free lunch, which the kids in Ballyntine don't need."

You obviously haven't priced silver spoons lately.