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All-day CMS magnet meeting Thursday

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will spend seven hours Thursday figuring out what to do about magnet programs, and Superintendent Peter Gorman says he's going to bring them a more sweeping slate of options than he presented in June.

The board has been studying its extensive slate of specialized academic programs since March. Gorman presented a plan in June that would have eliminated magnets serving about 2,100 students while revamping several others. Several board members said they wanted a more ambitious slate of changes, but offered no clear consensus on what they wanted.

Gorman and board member Trent Merchant, who has been talking to colleagues about broader changes, both said today they'll wait until Thursday to discuss the latest proposals.

“It will be more dramatic, more far-reaching than what was offered before,” Merchant said. “We're talking about something that is worth doing.”

During the summer, board members and CMS officials met with hundreds of parents at magnet forums around the county. A recap of those discussions will be part of Thursday's work session, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the district's Leadership Academy, 7920 Neal Road, near Martin Middle School in northeast Charlotte.

The meeting is open to the public, and CMS plans to air a tape of the marathon meeting over the weekend. The broadcast schedule hasn't been set.

The board will not vote this week, and any changes that are eventually approved would take place in 2009-10 or later.

CMS currently has 15 magnet themes, ranging from foreign language to performing arts, in 50 schools. Students must apply to magnets and are chosen by lottery if there are more applicants than available seats. Board members plan to look at whether the various programs are attracting students, offering a distinctive alternative to regular schools, boosting student achievement and promoting diversity.