The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted 7-2 Tuesday to add a student adviser to the board in time for the teen to have a voice in hiring a new superintendent and reshaping student assignment.
While board members and students who have lobbied for the change wrangled over details, all agreed the addition will benefit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“This is an amazing step, and I’m proud to be a CMS student,” said Ryan Golden, a North Mecklenburg High senior and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council, which meets with CMS, Mecklenburg County and city of Charlotte leaders. But he and other members of the council said they’re concerned that the selection of the first board adviser won’t be inclusive enough.
Each high school will elect a representative to a new Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, and that body will choose one to advise the school board. That student can’t vote but is expected to attend meetings, keep up with issues and offer a view from the people who are most affected by decisions.
The student member will be seated as the board wraps up the first stage of its student assignment review, which focuses on magnet schools, and begins another phase that deals with boundaries for neighborhood schools. The board also plans to hire a new superintendent early in 2017. The student adviser can’t participate in closed-session interviews or hiring discussions but can weigh in when the public meets finalists.
I think that it is incredibly important for a student voice to be part of the governance process.
CMS board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart
Superintendent Ann Clark said the new advisory council will immediately discuss possible refinements to the selection process for the 2017-18 school year. She said she’ll continue meeting with the Youth Council, which is sponsored by the nonprofit GenerationNation and open to all who sign up, as well as the new Advisory Council, which ensures that each high school has a representative.
Board Chair Mary McCray and Vice Chair Elyse Dashew voted against the plan, with Dashew saying she’s concerned that the process is too flawed. But others said they’re ready to get a student on board first and improve the process later.
“We’re going to have somebody here with us sooner rather than much later,” said Tom Tate.
CMS is not the first board to add a student voice. When the National School Boards Association polled 2,000 boards in 2002, 15 percent reported having a student member. Most could not vote.
Magnet lottery: ‘It’s dizzying’
Also Tuesday, the board headed into its final month of work on a revised plan for magnet schools that uses a new socioeconomic status calculation to try to diversify schools with magnet programs. A presentation to the board gave most people their first glimpse of how the plan could play out in 2017-18.
Board members acknowledge that the mechanics are complex, with socioeconomic status ratings created for each student and school. Those numbers will be used to set priority for placing students in the 2017 school options lottery, along with a new option that will help students in six low-performing schools switch to magnet or higher-performing neighborhood schools.
The district also outlined plans to add almost 13,000 magnet seats at existing and new schools over the next four years.
Staff walked the board through a long example of how the new lottery would play out.
“It’s going to be dizzying to some people. It’s dizzying to me,” said board member Thelma Byers-Bailey.
This is the wonkiest stuff I’ve had to deal with in seven years on the board.
CMS board member Rhonda Lennon
Board member Rhonda Lennon agreed that it’s “the wonkiest stuff I’ve had to deal with in seven years on the board,” but said it’s worth it.
“We’re going to (eventually) sell this to other districts, because it’s good stuff,” Lennon said.
Clark and her staff say a communication plan that turns the policy into plain English will be vital to success.
The board will hold a public hearing on the plan Oct. 25, with a vote scheduled for Nov. 9. Some speakers turned out Tuesday to weigh in during the general comment time.
Two residents of the Montclaire neighborhood in south Charlotte said most parents there avoid CMS, seeing their neighborhood schools as low performing and lacking in diversity. They said the addition of a partial magnet program could make Montclaire Elementary more attractive, especially if it makes the school more diverse.
Educator and activist Jessica Miller questioned whether the plan will do enough to create equitable opportunities for all students in failing schools.
“Show me the seats,” she said. “Don’t let all this work that we’ve done over the past few months be about a few hundred seats.”
Thursday: Joint meeting of the CMS board and the Mecklenburg Board of County commissioners, 4 p.m. in Room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.
Monday: Superintendent Ann Clark will take questions and discuss issues at a “coffee and conversation” session from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Piedmont Middle School, 1421 E. 10th St.
Oct. 25: The board will hold a discussion and public hearing on the magnet plan in the meeting chamber at the Government Center.
Oct. 26: Clark will hold a “coffee and conversation” session from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Elon Park Elementary School, 11425 Ardrey Kell Road.
Nov. 9: The board will hold a second public hearing and vote on changes that will take effect with the January lottery for 2017-18 assignments.
For meeting agendas, archived video and live streaming: www.cms.k12.nc.us/boe
For updates on the student assignment review: http://bit.ly/1o3eWhp