Deciding where students go to school is one of the most important and challenging tasks for any public school district. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is fully engaged in the charge of student assignment. As the district prepares for a change in leadership, we – the current and incoming superintendents – want to share our views with the community.
The two of us have been collaborating on student assignment and many other district issues since March. We have attended Board of Education meetings and public hearings on student assignment, the budget and the proposed school bond. Both of us share a deep commitment to the children of Mecklenburg County. The student assignment plan presented to the Board of Education reflects our shared thinking and values: Every student deserves a great education, and as educators, we must do all we can to make that happen.
We also want to lessen the uncertainty and anxiety that can accompany change, especially for CMS families and system personnel. Our goal is a smooth hand-off in the superintendent’s office at the end of June.
Working together, we are also ever-mindful of the context surrounding student assignment. The findings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force clearly and accurately described our community as an inequitable, divided place.
“We know that there has been a tale of two cities in Charlotte for a long time,” Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, the task force co-chair, said when the report was released in March. “It is about the children, but it is also about the families that wrap around these children and the systems and policies that the families live within.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is one of those systems. The proposed changes to student assignment are intended to extend successful schools and programs to provide equal opportunity to students no matter where they live. To achieve this goal, some schools will be modified and some students will attend different schools. All of us – educators, families and the members of the community at large – must be willing to accept change and make sincere efforts for the greater good.
Public education is not the only area in need of change, but it is one of the most important ones. Education is the only sure way out of poverty. Charlotte-Mecklenburg cannot go on doing things the same way and expect better results. In the wake of the task force report, community consensus on what needs to be done has emerged. Now we need the courage to do it.
The student-assignment plan will help us better educate all students. As the incumbent and incoming superintendents, we invite the community to embrace the proposed plan as an important first step in the way forward. The student-assignment plan won’t provide affordable and accessible housing and health care for our neighbors in need. But it does represent a vital part of a larger, community-wide effort. We believe it deserves community support.
Ann Clark is the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Dr. Clayton Wilcox will replace her when she retires June 30.