CMS board wrestles with early plans to alter school assignments

A discussion about school assignment Tuesday night showed the tensions Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will face as its leaders redesign school boundaries over the coming year.

School board members took no vote on school assignment plans at the meeting, saying they can’t solve CMS’ issues on their own.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer that we’ve got to do something radically different,” board member Tom Tate said.

Tate said he worried that schools are “either doing really well or they’re doing really poorly,” but wasn’t sure how to address the problem. The board is not expected to vote on school assignment until next year.

Other board members echoed Tate’s concern that CMS faces problems beyond the question of school assignment.

“We’ve got to find a different way to educate,” board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart said. “I don’t know what the solution is.”

But cooperation is needed from other community leaders, members said. “We need the city and the county to step up with us and get this done,” Chairwoman Mary McCray said.

Board member Rhonda Lennon agreed, saying the community needs to get involved to help students.

But Lennon, who represents suburban areas in north Mecklenburg, sparred with her colleagues when some said they would be willing to think about eliminating home schools, an idea Lennon found “abhorrent.”

Ellis-Stewart said she would be open to exploring plans that don’t involve a home-school system because right now, she thinks families who aren’t happy with their home school have limited options.

Board member Paul Bailey said he wanted to ensure students’ school options would be within reasonable proximity to their homes, but he wasn’t completely opposed to the idea.

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