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CMS launching 18-month student assignment review

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is taking the first steps in a wholesale review of how it assigns students to schools, and everything will be on the table – from school boundaries to the rules for the magnet lottery.

The whole thing will likely come to a head just as a new superintendent is being hired. At this point, the final vote on new policies and boundaries is scheduled for just four months after a new leader is expected to take office.

The process will be the latest in a series of periodic reviews CMS does of student assignment. They almost always become an emotional undertaking. The latest, in 2010, came under much different circumstances. The district faced massive budget cuts, and CMS ultimately decided to close 10 schools.

The district’s policy committee discussed Thursday a timeline for the review. CMS staff had suggested a condensed timeline that would result in a vote this November and changes for the 2016-17 school year. That would allow Superintendent Ann Clark, a 30-year veteran of the district, to run the process from start-to-finish. Per her contract, she is only serving until mid-2016.

But board members hesitated. They said they didn’t think there would be enough time to do it properly. “We have a lot in front of us right now,” chairwoman Mary McCray said. They recommended a process that would end in a vote in November 2016.

That means the process will coincide with the search for a new superintendent. The school board started that this week, too.

The board tentatively scheduled a date to hold a workshop on the student assignment review in May.