Education

Want to join CMS equity committee? Board votes on how members will be selected.

CMS board debates talk and action on equity

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members debate the value of creating a citizen equity panel.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members debate the value of creating a citizen equity panel.

Three months after it approved the formation of an equity committee, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted unanimously, despite heated debate, to approve guidelines for how members of the 40-person group will be selected.

Originally, community groups would have nominated individuals for the board to vote on to join the committee. Under the new plan, school board members — including the student representative — will each appoint two members. The remaining members, up to 20, will be chosen from a list of nominees. Individuals can nominate themselves, or be nominated by organizations that work with parents and students, as well as community, faith and educational groups. Each community group will be able to nominate five people for consideration.

Representatives will serve two-year staggered terms.

Board member Carol Sawyer criticized a suggestion for each board member to personally select individuals to form the entire equity committee. She said that in her experience, the direct relationship between board members and their appointments leads to the group becoming a “proxy war,” where committee members feel like their obligation is to the person who appointed them.

“I think it’s important for people to apply to the group and then be supported by the board as a whole,” she said. The final policy is a compromise of the two approaches.

Others expressed concerns about the size of the committee, and whether the body, once formed, would have a clear enough mandate to move decisively.

“We may end up with 40 people, each one thinking we should being this or that,” said Thelma Byers-Bailey, who represents district 2. “They’ve got no unity of what their goal is.”

The board passed an equity policy in May, after more than a year of considering such a move. The policy outlines ways to measure and monitor how the district is performing in terms of achieving equity in student outcomes. The soon-to-be formed committee is designed to act as a watchdog over the district’s progress.

The equity policy lists six factors that will be reported on quarterly: student assignment; educational opportunities and expectations; student wellness; school facilities; human resources, leadership and staff; and family engagement.

This year, the board opened nominations on Aug. 23, and will close nominations on Sept. 24. The board will elect the inaugural equity committee on Oct. 8.

In future years, the board will open the nomination period at its second March meeting and close it at its first May meeting. The full slate of members, chosen from the list of nominees, will be decided at the second meeting in May. Terms will run from July 1 to June 30.

Annie Ma covers education for the Charlotte Observer. She previously worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, Chalkbeat New York, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Oregonian. She grew up in Florida and graduated from Dartmouth College.
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