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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Public Voices Cautious Support Of CMS's Proposed Guiding Principles

Robert Lahser
Charlotte Observer
A couple hundred people with a lot of questions attended the public hearing.

The CMS board has been greeted by an emotional public the last few months, as it’s gone through the early phases of the student assignment process.

At a public hearing Wednesday night, that emotion subsided a bit to make way for questions about the board’s draft of principles for a new assignment plan. Most of the 200 or so people who turned out approached the principles with a mix of support and skepticism. 

There was a theme to the comments. 

“I offer my support to the guidelines, with a few caveats,” began parent James Rachel.

You heard that refrain from both those wanting more diversity among student bodies and those pushing for neighborhood schools. 

Rachel was glad to see the draft of the guiding principles endorse schools close to home, but he still had a lot of questions, like: what’s considered close? And since there’s no mention of stability, “Does this mean every year we’re going to be faced with the same chaos as this time?” he asked. 

On the other hand, Justin Perry with the group OneMeck said the principles as drafted provide good guide rails for student assignment, but urged the board to remain true to its goals. 

“Fidelity means maintaining the courage of our conviction to decrease the number of schools with children living in high concentrations of poverty,” said Perry. 

The guiding principles provide the board a lot of leeway in making decisions. They emphasize both home schools and magnets. They say socioeconomic status should play a role in drawing attendance boundaries, especially for new schools, and also in magnet lotteries.

Many pushed the board to be more specific. Those like Rishi Gogate and Rachel Weiss want more assurance that proximity will be the main factor in determining home school boundaries.

“I would urge you to very explicitly say travel distance is number one and all other criteria are secondary,” said Gogate.

“I’d ask that we clearly define a range of proximity for each grade level, whether that be three miles or half a mile,” said Weiss.

Teacher Whitaker Brown pointed out right now many students aren’t assigned to the closest school.    

“We have to recognize that to truly maximize efficiency as written in goal B, it very well may mean that lines are redrawn and school zones become more diverse,” said Brown. 

The CMS board plans to vote on the guiding principles at its meeting next week Tuesday.