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CMS Tries To Draw City, County Into Student Assignment Talk

Phil Roeder

CMS board members hope to involve city, county, and town leaders in a discussion about re-drawing school boundaries.  To kick that off, they invited their fellow elected officials to hear about the area’s changing demographics Tuesday, but only a handful showed up.

The few who came said a county meeting and city council debate waylaid their colleagues.  They along with a couple hundred curious members of the public heard a lot of numbers from UNC Chapel Hill demographer James Johnson. 

CMS is already what’s called a majority-minority school district with white students only making up a third of the district.  Johnson said CMS’s complexion is changing, but the district hasn’t seen anything yet.

“When I talk about the browning of America, I’m talking about the source of growth in your population, in your community.  That’s what’s going to transform your society.  That’s what’s going to transform your school system,” said Johnson. 

Between 2000 and 2010, he said, Mecklenburg County grew by nearly a third, with 82 percent of that growth non-white, and about 30 percent Hispanic. 

“We know where the next generation of kids will come from,” said Johnson.    

That’s why, he said, this region can’t afford to leave behind Hispanic and African-American students. After all, he pointed out, Mecklenburg County doesn’t just need an educated workforce to compete with Cabarrus and Union Counties, but to compete against whole other countries. He suggested CMS use what he called “competitive collaboration” to gain support for changes to ensure minority and low-income students get a good education.

“This is our moment as a community to take charge of this conversation to deliver a student assignment plan that makes sense for our community in 2016-17,” said Superintendent Ann Clark.   

Many board members have said they want a plan that makes diversity in schools a priority. They say there’s a way to do that without a return to busing. The school board hopes to have guidelines for re-drawing school boundaries by February. 

Proposed Changes For Expanding Magnet Programs

At the CMS board meeting later on Tuesday evening, Clark told the board she doesn’t want to eliminate shuttle stops for magnet schools altogether. Rather, keep some in place where there’s a critical mass that would use them. Several parents had urged the district to keep them. 

No one spoke about the plan to expand magnet schools next year during the public comment portion of the meeting, though a couple dozen people held up signs urging the board to open a Montessori high school.  The board will take further comment on the magnet plan and other changes on November 10th, the same night the board votes on them.