CMS approves student assignment plan with a few late changes

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board approved a student assignment plan Wednesday that will fill four new elementary schools and determine where a coveted new science, technology, engineering and math program will be.

The plan affects more than 2,500 students in the district and comes with several last-minute changes.

Oakhurst Elementary will reopen as a science, technology, engineering, arts and math partial magnet school off Monroe Road. In a change presented Wednesday, the more affluent Chantilly and Echo Hills neighborhoods would be included in its boundary. The area had been districted to the predominantly low-income Billingsville Elementary.

Several Chantilly residents had spoken to the board over the past few months, saying they didn’t feel Billingsville was a viable option and felt forced to send their children to a magnet, charter or private school.

Former Superintendent Heath Morrison had said that he was hurt by that attitude toward Billingsville. Several board members said Wednesday that they hoped CMS would move quickly to help the school.

“I have a lot of heartburn that we are not yet doing anything for Billingsville. We need to give those children what they need, which is a good, sound, quality public education,” board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart said.

Another new school in the growing Highland Creek community had earlier been pitched as a K-8 school. The final proposal called for a K-5 school.

CMS executive director of student placement Scott McCully said some parents had concerns about the size and focus of a potential K-8 school.

A third school relieves overcrowding at Hickory Grove, Windsor Park and Albemarle Road elementaries in east Charlotte.

CMS also will reopen Starmount Elementary near South Boulevard and Arrowood Road.

The board also voted to place a new STEM magnet program at Kennedy Middle in the Steele Creek area. Parents of students at Palisades Park Elementary, a new STEM school that opened this year, had lobbied to have the magnet placed at Southwest Middle, closer to home, to allow their students to continue in engineering.

That option wasn’t chosen. But CMS Assistant Superintendent Akeshia Craven-Howell said Southwest Middle is committed to giving students options to have engineering opportunities.

On Morrison

The meeting was the first time the full board had convened since it voted to accept Morrison’s resignation. That meeting came after the abrupt news that Morrison would leave the job after two and a half years to care for his mother.

The Observer soon reported that in the days before the resignation, CMS general counsel George Battle III had investigated allegations that Morrison bullied staff and misled the board on the costs of a building project.

The issue has caused friction among board members. The vote to accept the resignation was 6-3, and board member Eric Davis has been outspoken about his wish that Morrison was still the superintendent.

Board Chairwoman Mary McCray opened the meeting with a statement on the controversy. She said eight of the nine board members supported how Battle conducted the investigation and said eight board members were in favor of Morrison leaving.

She admitted that the board could have done a better job of communicating.

“We concluded it’s better to be certain than to be fast with our public comments,” she said.