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Think CMS isn't transparent? Let us count the ways it is

CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says CMS values the public as a partner.
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says CMS values the public as a partner. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

In response to "To CMS, the public is an annoyance" (March 15 editorial):

Media have an important part to play in equipping people in our community with information they need to help make all of our public institutions better, and CMS thanks our civic colleagues in the media for their diligent work.

In the course of sharing information, CMS must give due regard for employee and student privacy because lives are affected in real and lasting ways by discussions held among, and decisions made by, members of the Board of Education. These topics are very often the subject of closed board meetings, and this is why information shared and discussions during these meetings are protected by law.

Outside the world of catchy media headlines, the reality on the ground is that schools succeed and students achieve when the community is involved. To support that involvement, CMS is opening new avenues to information, access to decision-making and pathways to participation in shaping public education for people across Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Very soon, CMS will launch a first-ever digital dashboard for school data, including school-by-school information on enrollment, graduation rates, college and career readiness and end of year test scores. Anyone with digital access will have this information available at any time.

CMS released its first equity report in a decade entitled “Breaking the Link,” clearly depicting the connections between school poverty and student achievement. The district created this report because we believe that getting better begins with facing facts truthfully, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

We need the help of the public to create the next district strategic plan, and we are hosting nine community workshops, reaching out to grassroots and neighborhood groups for community discussions, have opened an online and paper survey and made self-guided discussion materials available at cmsstrategy.org. This work will guide the future of public education in our community and we are reaching out in English and Spanish and across age ranges with digital, print and in-person ways for people to participate.

To build further transparency, CMS opened up a new portal for access to board documents this month on a new Boarddocs.com platform, that makes upcoming meeting agendas, topic information, minutes and records easier to access, faster to update and more interactive. CMS exceeds the legislative requirements for posting agendas and board information and we will continue to build access and transparency for Board of Education information.

Across the district, student voices were lifted up last week with the intentional support of CMS and school-based leadership to amplify student calls for change through their own expressions. Several weeks ago, the district affirmed the vital importance of teacher and employee voice during the March Board of Education meeting.

Families, parents, students and community members can also look forward to a new CMS website and community engagement platform being launched this year that is focused on empowering people to help their students succeed.

Voices empowered by information, access to institutions and informed participation create change for the better for our students. We look forward to making this community’s public schools continually more accessible, transparent and open to the most critical partners for student success, the people of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Wilcox is superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
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