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Here are 4 new ways to engage with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

“The brick” holds a lot of information about conditions, crowding and project priorities for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“The brick” holds a lot of information about conditions, crowding and project priorities for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

This is a rare week with no formal meetings about big issues in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. But nobody needs to worry about losing momentum, with new ways to engage opening up.

For starters, MeckEd plans to post six days of comments from its Feb. 18 forum on student assignment, which drew 160 people. The comments are broken into six topics: Teachers on Monday, parent involvement Tuesday, magnet schools Wednesday, neighborhood schools Thursday, diversity Friday and the Board of Education on March 7.

Go to www.mecked.org for the daily posts and video of the session, and add your comments via Facebook or Twitter (@MeckEd).

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators suggests that folks who are anxious over what will happen with student assignment this fall start now working to improve schools.

“Underneath all of the impassioned rhetoric and inflamed anxiety, I heard a community express a willingness to provide the resources necessary to improve our high poverty neighborhood schools,” the teachers group said in a statement sent Friday. “...Student assignment is in the future, whereas struggling schools need help now. It all begins with retaining quality teachers, reducing class size and placing high demand magnets or other programs in high poverty schools to attract families. We need to repair, clean up or replace aging school buildings.”

The group is urging interested people to join them at county commissioners’ meetings, starting with the one 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St., as well as at school board meetings.

About those aging school buildings: CMS has started posting some of the school renovation and construction data released last week in preparation for creating a bond project list. Go to www.cms.k12.nc.us and look for the new “2016-2017 Budget/Capital Plan Information” link under Spotlight.

There’s a link to 206 pages of overview information and school profiles (see “2016-2026 Facilities and Programs Presentation”). But that’s only a fraction of the information available in the notebook that board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart dubbed “the brick.” It includes detailed lists and rankings of the needs at each school, how enrollment compares with building capacity and how the possible projects stack up by priority.

The challenge is how people who care about that information can get it. I spoke with Communication Chief Kathryn Block, Chief Operating Officer Carol Stamper and facility planner Peggy Hey. They say they’re trying to figure out ways to make the information, which includes small print and fold-out pages, accessible online.

I’ve done a lot of manual entry with Excel spreadsheets to make CMS data reader-friendly, but this would go far beyond the time I can dedicate. So maybe this should be a community challenge. Perhaps some education-focused group such as MeckEd, the UNCC Urban Institute or EdNC has the staff, software and skill to get the brick and consolidate the data into a click-by-school format. Who knows, maybe a dedicated group of parents could tackle it. If anyone creates such a reference, let me know and I’ll share it with everyone else.

And finally, CMS is launching a series of community engagement sessions around the county. The first is 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at South Mecklenburg High, 8900 Park Road.

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

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