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

CMS Board Hires Consultant Known For Using Student Assignment To Create Diversity

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Lisa Worf

CMS has hired a lot of consultants over the years without much attention. But that isn’t the case with the board’s latest selection. After all, it has to do with student assignment.  The CMS board voted Tuesday night to pay Alves Educational Consultants Group $135,000 to help design a plan.   

Michael Alves is known for plans that use choice to diversify schools. For example, parents might rank their top selections among a group of schools and children then are assigned to one, taking into account things like income and achievement. 

That does not sit well with board member Rhonda Lennon. 

“When I look up Mr. Alves and he is called ‘the godfather of controlled choice,’ it causes me great concern,” said Lennon.  

Many in the audience agreed. It was a small crowd, but they made their opinions known.  They held up signs that read things like “Controlled choice takes away our choice,” and “I’m leaving CMS to go to a charter school.”

“I’m disappointed in this option. I think there were better choices out there, had we looked for someone else,” concluded Lennon to applause.    

Many on the board said Alves and his team are the right people for the job. In recent years, the firm has worked on assignment plans for Wake County, New York City and Champagne, Illinois. 

“I see a wide variety of experience they bring to the table, not only in terms of educational policy, but also in terms of legal background knowledge, as well as the software development process that goes along with this work,” said Ericka Ellis-Stewart.  

Elyse Dashew said the district can use the extra help. 

“To me this is a bandwidth issue. It’s bringing in a fresh set of eyes and some additional bandwidth to take on this labor intensive project,” said Dashew. 

Earlier in the evening, the board approved the foundation that will guide the consultants work. Those principles include: every child will be assigned to a school close to home, attendance boundaries, especially new ones, will be drawn with an eye to creating socio-economic diversity, and income will be a factor in magnet school lotteries.

Superintendent Ann Clark said Alves knows the board, not his firm, are the ones driving a plan. 

The motion to hire Alves' group passed 8-1, with Lennon voting against it.

The board then voted unanimously to hire a firm based in Nebraska to help conduct a search for a new superintendent. The company will receive about $35,000 in fees and $17,000 to cover expenses.

The board also agreed to ask county commissioners to put an $805 million bond package for school construction on November’s ballot.