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CMS board approves 2018 strategic plan with ' audacious goals'

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DAVIE HINSHAW - dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
N.C. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison join students walking to Cotswold Elementary School on Wednesday morning.

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board adopted an ambitious strategic plan Tuesday that envisions higher graduation rates, new esteem for teachers and growing community partnerships by 2018.

The five-year plan updates one that will expire in 2014. It was crafted with community involvement, including 22 task forces that were formed to recommend how the district should invest its resources. The CMS board began hearing presentations on it in July.

The board’s 8-0 vote, with one abstention, approved six core goals and performance indicators to gauge progress. Hard targets for 2018 have not yet been set for many of the measures because baseline data, to be used for comparison, is still being gathered.

At-large member Ericka Ellis-Stewart abstained from the vote because of the missing benchmarking data. “I want to be sure, through this plan, that we’re crystal clear about the expectations,” she said.

The plan sets some clear examples.

One goal, on academic achievements, sets a target of increasing the number of students graduating in four years from 81 percent last year to 92 percent by 2018. Other targets would raise average SAT scores from 996 to 1010 and increase the students completing advanced classes from 44 percent to 60 percent.

A target on retaining and rewarding talented educators calls for increasing the percentage of employees optimistic about their professional growth and career opportunities from 64 percent to 85 percent.

A goal of partnering with families and community groups set a target of doubling the number of participants at Parent University, which seeks to engage parents in their children’s education.

The full plan, including strategies for achieving the long-term goals, will be unveiled to the community and school staff later in October.

“My goal is that the community really feels like it’s their plan,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said in an interview before the meeting. “We feel they’re aspirational – big, hairy, audacious goals – but we think they’re achievable.”

Preparing graduates for college and careers remains a primary goal, Morrison said. But he said a secondary goal might pose the district’s biggest challenge: recruiting, developing and retaining a talented workforce.

“If we get that right, the other things will fall into place,” Morrison said.

The plan mirrors, in many of its terms, the “Way Forward” goals the new superintendent outlined last November after his first 100 days on the job.

District 5 member Eric Davis said the community involvement in developing the plan can serve to rally Charlotteans around CMS the way Americans did to President Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to send astronauts to the moon.

“Approving this plan moves us one step closer toward achieving that goal,” he said.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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