Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer student shuffle gets serious

This week's word that Carolina STEM charter school doesn't have enough students to open this year illustrates a challenge facing Charlotte-area schools and families:  More choice brings more uncertainty.

The state approved 11 new charter schools to serve about 3,200 Mecklenburg and Cabarrus county students in 2014-15.  A court cleared the way for the Opportunity Scholarship program to proceed,  offering low-income families tax-funded scholarships to switch from public to private schools. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools countered with more magnets and other options.

This spring,  families interested in a change could put their kids' names in for various schools, see where they got in and make a choice. Now,  with a little less than six weeks remaining until most students go back to school,  everyone's trying to figure out what those choices are.

For the folks who have spent the last four years trying to make Carolina STEM Academy a reality,  that meant realizing that 170 applications translated to only 66 confirmed enrollments,  according to a letter sent to families and posted on the school's website.  That was 40 to 60 short of what the board believed was necessary to open,  so rather than push things to the wire they called it quits for this year.

Carolina STEM was the second Charlotte-area charter school to drop out of the 2014 opening;  Stewart Creek High had earlier gotten a one-year deferral because of problems getting its building ready.  The question is whether it will be the last.  Many are still recruiting students,  working on facilities and holding information sessions.  The state is monitoring readiness of the remaining schools,  and could defer or revoke charters for those that don't seem to be set for a successful opening.

CMS,  meanwhile,  is trying to staff its schools appropriately.  Last year the district underestimated charter growth and overestimated its own enrollment.  This year planners project that most of the county's enrollment growth will be in charters.  We can only hope that the state's PowerSchool data system works better this year,  allowing everyone timely information about where students land.

In an unrelated nugget,  Wake County Schools Public Relations Director Renee McCoy left that job Tuesday and word is she's coming to CMS,  presumably to fill the gap left by Tahira Stalberte's departure for Union County Schools.  According to her LinkedIn profile, she's a former TV journalist who has also done PR for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.


Anonymous said...

Wake County Schools Public Relations Director ?

Sounds like a good time to eliminate some unneeded fluff govt job waste of tax dollars. Gotta act quick.
There's 10,000 more of these totally useless "administrative" jobs statewide that need to hit butcher shop meat cleaver. Whack off the fat ..

Anonymous said...

Useless Position or

5 teachers or
10 teaching assistants or
500 Chrome books or……..

Which sorority assisted in this new hire?

Anonymous said...

She will have NO IMPACT on student learning and graduation rates, but will be paid the same as 6 frontline day to day teachers.

This is the PROBLEM !

Have her teach at least ONE class in a high school setting. How many journalism and PR people has she brought into the classroom for Wake County teachers to use as a resourse ?


Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, Carolina STEM was supposed to be in Cabarrus County, where the traditional public schools are still considered to be pretty good (a matter of opinion I know). As such, I am not entirely surprized this school was not able to enroll enough students.

Anonymous said...

Good memory, 9:19. Carolina STEM was originally going to be located in Cabarrus but chose a site in northeast Meck. Plan was always to pull most of the students from Meck, though.

Anonymous said...

Would the age ole saying " to many chiefs not enough indians " be considered racist/bigoted in todays pc age?

Dont answer...

Anonymous said...

PR gets a bad name, but without communications staff there's little chance we'd know anything that's happening in CMS. They are the conduit of information from the school system to the public, and without anyone in these roles CMS would be an even bigger black hole than it already is. When you talk about eliminating communications staff as mere fluff, be careful what you ask for. (FWIW, this is coming from a journalist, not a PR flak or anyone involved with CMS aside from being a concerned parent of two kids in CMS schools.)

Unknown said...


The Communications Director is one of the most important jobs in CMS. It is difficult for me to imagine how a $1B business could operate without this role. I put it on par with the Athletic Director or the Board attorney.

It’s worth noting that among the most consistent public demands of CMS is that it has clear rules and understandable procedures. This is what is expected from Communications.

Where Communications begins to get a bad rap is when it becomes an irritating buffer between administration and the public. It has happened before. For that reason I’m glad to see the possibility of a new director with education and media experience.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...

The results are in the product produced. If a STEM school - CMS or Charter - produces quality graduates, then obviously parents will want to send their kids to that (those) school(s).

It seems to me to be a leap of faith to send a kid to a new, unproven charter school. The Carolina STEM school may have great teachers and admin lined up, but sometimes that's just not enough to get students.

MAybe marketing and location had something to do with it?

Anonymous said...

its obvious school administrators believe there are too many indians and not enough chiefs ... this needs to reverse ..

true marxism may actually be good for public schools as proletariat teacher workers can become the ruling class bourgeoisie administrators.

everybody make the same ... no 100k 200k 300k salaries...

everybody makes 40-50k a yr

forget those useless masters or phd degrees.

workers/teachers paradise only

classless society in schools
everybody makes the same

marx was good for something ..

Anonymous said...

Just a few letter changes……...

"Those are my principals, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Anonymous said...

I understand you are very busy, however since you wrote this article, have you heard of other charter schools who are planning to open this fall, that are perhaps may struggle to do so. Two come to mind for me, Bradford Prep and ACE Academy, both appear to be behind pace to open.

Anonymous said...

Communications Director =

Damn Lies
Educational Statistics

with a $150,000 SALARY...Thanks BofE for being good stewards of our tax $. I have already "walked out" on MOrrison.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point, and I would add to it. From watching Charters the last year or two in my area, I tend to think many of them attempt to open too quickly.

for example, Cabarrus Charter Academy, Charter Schools USA is a major multi million dollar company. Even they struggled with the expedited opening of the school. Their facilites were built in time (first class too), but they have experienced major issues with teacher turnover. This was due in part because they were a rushed to hire to meet the time table, even their founding principal is gone, she did not last a year.

Anonymous said...

Interesting -- an anonymous journalist! I'll agree with 10:10 on the record; the PIO staff are often advocates and conduits for public info. I've had enough background conversations over the years to know that the best folks in that office often fight hard behind the scenes to make sure others understand that obligation. I'm not going to wade into correct levels of staffing or salaries, but I agree that if that office disappeared we'd all have a harder time getting public information.

Anonymous said...

11:58, I just don't have first-hand info about the new schools gearing up. I've been following the reports to the Charter School Advisory Board, but even those don't tell us who's really on track and who's in trouble.

Pamela Grundy said...

Indeed, anyone who's tried to get information from a public agency knows how important it is to have good people in the public information office, especially people who understand that too much "spin" destroys an institution's credibility.

BTW can folks bring themselves to lay off the racist "sorority" comments? Good grief.

Anonymous said...

from reading the Bradford Prep website/facebook, it appears the school only recently broke ground on their facilities within the last month.

There is little information with regards to ACE, their facebook page has not been updated since May 28th, showing the building as a shell. Incidently, they are still taking applications. Their website does not really provide any comfirmation if the school will be properly ready to open on time.

Wiley Coyote said...

So we should take from "information officers/PR people" that the Obama admistration is how NOT to do it....

I trust all information coming out of Washington, CMS, Raleigh, etc. as far as I can throwm my considerable weight, which is about as far as I can jump.

Do the math.

Anonymous said...

How about the impact of this school failing to open? What happens to the teachers? Do they no longer have a job come August? If they do have a job, do they get absorbed back into CMS with little time to prepare for what they will be teaching at their new schools?

Where do the students who were originally slated to go to closed charter school go? Back to their original schools? I would like to know about the impact of this story on real people.

Anonymous said...

1:08, those are good questions. If you click the link in the first sentence you'll get a story that dealt with some of that. Students have guaranteed seats in their home/neighborhood schools; they may or may not be able to get into other charters or magnets. Teachers don't have jobs, though plenty of hiring (in CMS and, I'm betting, in nearby districts and charters) goes on between now and the start of school. It's definitely not good for students or teachers, but the board decided to do it now rather than wait a few more weeks and end up having to pull the plug later.

Anonymous said...

Putting aside salary for the moment, I'm still wondering what off-the-books perks new administrative hires receive from taxpayers. Does CMS pay or reimburse relocation expenses for administrators, even within the county? Offer signing bonuses? Mileage reimbursement? What of the 85+ principal hires/transfers? Are all those folks getting some up-front cash to ease their transitions?

Presumably none of this would appear in the next salary database, yet rumor has it that a lot of these folks are suddenly upgrading their houses and cars.

Can you get a straight answer on this, Ann? Surely someone in the Communications and Public Information office could answer that. Whether they *would*, let alone with any specificity, is another question.

Anonymous said...

You do raise some good points, whether your child goes to a charter or not, your child is effected, because your child's school loses funding. This is part of the equation many parents simply don't understand and perhaps don't care either.

Not only that, if a child was home schooled and opts to attend a charter, the local school has to pay for that as well (while they never were funded for that child), same thing if a child in private school opts to attend a charter.

Anonymous said...

From the CMS website:

"How we communicate:

In order to provide timely information both internally and externally, CMS communicates using the following methods:

Board Updates: A weekly report to the Board that provides information on district progress and events. It is sent to Board members, executive staff, principals and senior managers each Friday.

CMS Magazine: A television programming show that highlights various people and initiatives that support CMS.

CMS-TV: Found on Time- Warner Cable channel 3 and is the primary broadcast source for news and information about the district.
CMS web site: All district news is updated on this site.

DirectLine: A weekly newsletter that highlights initiatives in the district.

Facebook: Provides CMS with a social media presence

Friday Focus: A weekly email communication from the superintendent that highlights achievements of students, teachers and departments in the district.
Heath’s Hot Topics: A web post from the superintendent that addresses issues and events of interest in the district from the superintendent’s point of view, providing assessment and insight from him. It is updated as events occur, usually at least once a week.

Insight with Superintendent Heath Morrison: A monthly broadcasted television show on CMS-TV that serves as a forum for the superintendent to discuss the latest issues and initiatives in CMS.

Legislative Blog: Provides updates on legislation impacting public education.

Media Line: If reporters have questions about the district they can call (980) 343-6243

Media Tip Sheet: Provides story ideas to media partners

Press Releases: Announces major district news to the media

Rumor Has It: A weekly web update that examines rumors in the district. It is intended to dispel misinformation and myths by providing detailed, factual responses to questions from employees and incorrect stories in the media.

Twitter: @CMS_schools: Provides CMS with a social media presence"

Frankly, I'd like a little less "communication" and a lot more transparency. Unannounced third-party financial audits of a few select departments would be a good place to begin. May I suggest Capital Program Services (Planning and Construction) and HR?

Anonymous said...

your comment is what I would consider gossip, if you don't have the facts, comments such as this are best left unsaid.

"rumor has it that a lot of these folks are suddenly upgrading their houses and cars."

What I do know, because it was published for the public to see, the two principals who were hired by CMS from Cabarrus County each received hefty salary increase. Rhymer to North Meck, went from 98K to 123K, Garay to Mallard Creek went from 85K to 113K.

if this is any indication of how much CMS is over paying for people, then perhaps these folks can afford to upgrades:)

Anonymous said...

123K!!!!!! Wow!!! No wonder teachers are paid so poorly.. Why doesn't Mcory and the boys bring up administrative cost?

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, over and over all we hear about is the demand for charter schools and how awful CMS is, so why in the world would a charter school not have enough students to open? Ask anyone and everyone and they will all say how poor CMS is and how we need to shut it down and replace it with charter schools. Every single parent across the county wants to put their children in a charter school, right? Right?

Come on now folks we all know charter schools will save this country so please do your patriotic duty and pull your students from CMS and get them to Carolina STEM so it won't fail!!!

Anonymous said...

my thoughts exactly! Tough to preach poverty in my book when CMS pays these kinds of salaries for administrators.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:46
you cracked me up!

"Come on now folks we all know charter schools will save this country so please do your patriotic duty and pull your students from CMS and get them to Carolina STEM so it won't fail!!!"

Anonymous said...

Where will we place our version of the Detroit Book Depository now that Common Core standards have revealed how poorly we're educating NC students?

Hundreds of millions of dollars spent by districts on Common Core textbooks and materials down the drain. Countless hours spent by teachers in mandated Common Core curriculum training, all for naught. Yet further incentive for NC teachers to take what they have learned here to another state.

The legislature has realized the emperor has no clothes and is once again lowering the bar - at the behest of the Hover-Round, teabag, git-r-dun crowd, no less. Common Core, common *sense* never stood a chance.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic but very important to experienced teachers ... Ann, when the NC Senate says it wants an 8% raise for teachers, is that an AVERAGE of 8% or a standard pay increase? Previous Senate suggestions indicated an average pay raise percentage, with most of the pay raise going to less experienced teachers. Less experienced teachers need a pay raise, definitely, but living costs have increased for all teachers. Thanks for checking!

Anonymous said...

what are you referring too, has the state legislature voted to do away with Common core?

Anonymous said...

Since you brought attention to a charter school that is not going to open, I looked at two other charters, Bradford Prep and ACE Academy, neither of which look to be anywhere near ready to open in late August.
I happened to notice a third while returning to my office during lunch, Thunderbird Prep Academy (Cornelius). This school looks as though their facility is a long way from being finished and when visiting their website, they have 8 teaching vacancies. Which from judging by the size of the facility, 8 teachers would probably constitute the bulk of the teaching staff.
I would agree with Wiley, in that it does appear to be a leap of faith to send your child to a brand new, unproven charter school, especially one that came together at the last minute.

Anonymous said...


Racist sorority comments? Maybe. Sexist? Certainly.

Bet your bottom dollar that the dude who objected to kindergarten yesterday has been divorced at least twice.


Anonymous said...

"BTW can folks bring themselves to lay off the racist "sorority" comments? Good grief."

JULY 16, 2014 AT 12:27 PM

Huh? We love the gratuitous "good grief" at the end to cover your behind.
Who brought up race? What do you know about the "sorority" you are hiding in support of these useless 150,000 a yr PR waste jobs?

What a load.

Pamela Grundy said...

Hey Alicia,

There's been a tendency in the blog to bring up sororities in the context of black women getting various positions in CMS. Never seen it mentioned in the context of white women. It's pretty clear to me that the mention of "sorority" in the context of a black woman getting a prominent CMS job was based purely on her race.

Anonymous said...

1:38 That is a disconcerting list. But what do they choose to communicate? from what my high school children came home and told me, we certainly weren't hearing any of those stories through the CMS media methods.

Anonymous said...

Pamela Grundy is the only one who brought up the race card. Telltale and speaks for itself. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Carolina STEM failed to recruit students for many reasons. Lack of a rigorous curriculum for advanced STEM students is one. If you can't get advanced STEM classes at a STEM high school, that's an obvious problem.

Also, the school very recently hired a director who "resigned" from her prior job only a few weeks before the end of her third year at a Western NC charter school because of her poor performance and serious lack of confidence and support by parents, as documented in the public minutes of that school's board. Choosing a director for a brand new NC charter school, who has already failed at being the director at another brand new NC charter school, leaves me wondering about other decisions that school was making. If they can't figure it out after working on this school for four years, it's not gonna happen.

I am fully supportive of the idea of charter schools, but school boards are something often completely overlooked by prospective parents, and hard to evaluate. A weak board is the downfall of many schools (even those schools that open or stay open can be dysfunctional with very little oversight by the state) and parents often don't find out what a serious issue this is until their children are already enrolled. And the ones that pay the price are the children.

Anonymous said...

Enrollment is not the resounding issue. At one time there was a waitlist. The ability to secure/close on the building is the MAIN reason. The closing date kept being postponed and understandably, parents got nervous. How can you begin to retrofit/renovate something that is not of late May/early June..still issues? If that number magically hit 200+ now, school will not open. The sad part is the children that do not want to go to their home school and perhaps chose this school over another magnet, are now possibly forced to go to their home school. For those wondering, YES, my child was accepted into Carolina STEM, as well as others, and I kept at least one of the other options available. After the building did not close in May, I withdrew.