CMS: Cato High students may have misused district account

Cato campus of Central Piedmont Community College
Cato campus of Central Piedmont Community College Staff Photographer

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is investigating high school students’ use of a taxpayer-funded account designed to pay for their academic expenses while they attend school at Central Piedmont Community College’s Cato campus.

Cato Middle College High School offers about 200 juniors and seniors a setting where they can take tuition-free college courses while finishing high school. That arrangement includes a CMS account set up to cover college textbooks, fees and supplies.

CMS spokeswoman Renee McCoy said this week the district is scutinizing how that account has been used. “We are looking into ways that we can tighten controls so there’s no way to make purchases outside of the requirements for their classes,” she said.

She said some students face disciplinary action but declined to be more specific. Because the school is so small, she said, giving such details as the number of students involved or the penalties they face could violate their privacy by identifying them to classmates.

Small high schools located on college campuses are a trend in CMS and around the country. CMS offers “middle college” settings for 11th and 12th graders at CPCC’s Cato and Levine campuses and Charlotte Engineering Early College High at UNC Charlotte, where students can start as ninth-graders. Those schools have admission requirements and encourage students to accumulate college credits, including the option for a “grade 13” that allows them to work an extra year with CMS picking up the tab.

McCoy said the concerns about use of the CMS account involve only the Cato school.

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