CMS to tap firm known for diversity work to guide assignment review

A Massachusetts firm that specializes in choice-based assignment plans and socioeconomic diversity is up for a $135,000 contract to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools revisit student assignment.

The Alves Educational Consultants Group helped Wake County Schools revamp its student assignment plan in 2012.

The school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on guiding principles and a contract with the Alves group, moving CMS a big step forward in a trek that has consumed the community for months.

Board members say they want to break up concentrations of poverty that can hobble teacher recruitment and academic achievement, while increasing family options and protecting neighborhood schools that are popular with many parents. The consultant’s task will be helping them figure out how to do that in the coming months.

The group’s proposal calls for looking at a number of elements that can be used in “socioeconomic integration,” including family income, parents’ education level, the number of adults in a household and neighborhood demographics. The group would also look at other priorities the board has identified, such as alleviating school crowding and giving students a nearby school assignment, in developing options for CMS.

The student assignment votes will come at an off-site meeting in Matthews that may prove hard to follow live. The meeting will be at Butler High, part of the board’s plan to hold at least one meeting a year away from the uptown Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

But board services manager Julie Beck said Monday the location means CMS-TV won’t be able to broadcast or stream the meeting live, as it normally does. Video will be posted later at the CMS website.

The meeting also includes a public hearing on Superintendent Ann Clark’s budget proposal, a vote on asking county commissioners to put an $805 million bond referendum on the November ballot and a vote to hire a superintendent search firm. The chosen search consultant had not been identified Monday.

The choice of an assignment consultant is bound to spark debate.

Richard Kahlenberg, who will be the lead consultant on education policy for CMS, is perhaps the nation’s best-known proponent of socioeconomic integration. The proposal from Alves group called for using Amy Hawn Nelson of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute as a local consultant. Nelson is a co-editor of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte” and has spoken at several public forums hosted by OneMeck and other groups urging an end to racial and economic isolation in schools.

But CMS officials said Monday night that the agreement the board will vote on does not include Nelson.

Many suburban families and elected officials have been wary of plans focusing on socioeconomic diversity, fearing that could lead to disruption of neighborhood schools and massive reassignment to balance demographics.

Thousands have already weighed in on the CMS student assignment review at public meetings and in a CMS online survey. More public engagement events will be scheduled as the board moves toward specific decisions. Some changes could take effect in 2017-18, though the board could also vote to delay a year or phase changes in over time.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

About the meeting

The board meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of Butler High, 1810 Matthews-Mint Hill Road. To speak about the budget, call 980-343-5139 by noon Tuesday or sign up outside the auditorium before the meeting starts. (Comments on other issues won’t be heard at this meeting.)

For details, including the agenda, board member contact information and a link to where the meeting video will be posted, go to

About the consultants

Michael Alves, founder and owner of Alves Educational Consultants Group, has 35 years’ experience “designing and implementing diversity conscious choice-based student assignment plans and magnet school admission policies.”

Richard Kahlenberg is widely known as a proponent of public school choice and economic diversity policies. He has written six books on the topics and been featured in national news media.

John Brittain, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, will serve as the team’s civil rights consultant and equity specialist.