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CMS Board Approves Student Assignment Goals

Many in the crowd Tuesday night wanted the board to add a goal guaranteeing students a seat in a school close to them.

CMS board members finally have goals to help guide the student assignment process. They aren’t much different than the ones they drafted last month. The goals include reducing concentrations of poverty in schools.

Several board members felt they had some convincing to do. Namely, that they don’t plan to uproot students from schools close to home and bus them across the county. Board Vice Chair Elyse Dashew said the board can help give poor kids a better chance at getting ahead. 

“Student assignment alone is not going to address it, but the one piece that will help is breaking up concentrations of poverty. That does not mean forced busing.  That does not mean threatening proximity,” said Dashew.


  Board member Ruby Jones referenced another of the five goals to make her point. That is maximize efficiencies in the use of transportation.

“It’s going to mean that we’re not going to do miles and miles and miles of busing. There’s not the capital to do that. So I think we’ve developed a degree of hysteria and overreaction to something that’s just not there,” said Jones. 

To allay that fear, board member Rhonda Lennon said the goals need to include a guaranteed seat in a school close to home. Many in the audience applauded. Their signs read “Save Our Neighborhood Schools” and “No Forced Busing.”

“Until that happens, I don’t believe that the community, no matter what we say up here right now, is going to believe us. I know they believe me and they know how I’m going to vote no matter what,” said Lennon. 

Earlier this month, a public hearing on the goals lasted for about two hours. Most people opposed them. Last night there was no hearing, but the audience still made their feelings known. Board member Tom Tate suggested those who felt differently couldn’t make it to the meeting.

“They can’t come because they’re working tonight, or they can’t come because they don’t have transportation, or they can’t come because they can’t afford...” began Tate.

A few people clapped, others groaned, and one woman yelled, “Shame on you.”

“No, no, no, we don’t do that,” Board Chair Mary McCray scolded them.   

Eric Davis proposed adding a home school guarantee to the goals, but only he and Lennon voted for that. In the end, the board approved the goals with a 7-to-1 vote. Lennon voted against it. Paul Bailey couldn’t vote, since he was on the phone in New Orleans. 

Board members also agreed to wait until March 8 to vote on a timeline for finding a new superintendent. They want to begin compiling a request for proposals from search firms before that.