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School board envisions future for CMS students

Implanting microchips in students was the most unusual idea to come out of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board’s special meeting to envision the district’s future Tuesday.

It was a tongue-in-cheek expression of a serious idea: The ultimate goal isn’t just a high school diploma but a successful adult life. Members Richard McElrath and Rhonda Lennon brought up the microchips as a way of saying they wished it were easier to track the success of graduates in the work force.

“At the end of the day you’re either going to work or you’re going to school,” McElrath said. “And if you’re not going to work or school you’re going to jail.”

The board took no action Tuesday. The work session got them talking about what they’d like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to look like in 2017. Specific commitments will come in future meetings.

Themes voiced by the members included:

• Students should have more academic choices, and there shouldn’t be any schools that fall short of preparing students for the future.

• Teachers should be better paid and more highly respected, with little reason to leave the district or avoid specific schools.

• CMS should have a stronger network of partnerships to support students “from prenatal to college graduation,” as member Eric Davis put it. Several members talked about building stronger connections with colleges and universities.

• Community partnerships should turn schools into hubs of vibrant neighborhoods. “We’ve got to elevate the importance of the school that sits in the neighborhood,” Vice Chairman Mary McCray said. “Something should be going on in that building seven days a week, even in the summer.”

• A sign of success would be more families choosing CMS, with the demographics of the district matching those of Mecklenburg County.

“We will know that public education is the first choice of families. They won’t be fleeing for other places,” member Joyce Waddell said, describing the desired future.

Superintendent Heath Morrison asked the board to think about the kind of careers today’s kindergarteners will need to be ready for. That’s almost impossible to predict, members said.

Instead, the board and Morrison talked about the kind of skills that will prepare students to be adaptable: Basics like reading and math, a strong work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and foreign languages.

Morrison plans to unveil his long-term plan for CMS later this year, after he completes his round of town hall meetings and surveys to get ideas from the public and employees.

The board also plans to work out a list of commitments to each other, saying they want to model the kind of respectful discourse that will benefit students.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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