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CMS Board Considers Whether Magnets Meet Expectations

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools board is turning its attention to magnet schools as it continues discussing changes for next year that will likely include school closings. Last week, school board members came up with a list of fourteen schools they'll consider for closure or consolidation to save money. Three of them are schools with magnet programs: Irwin Avenue, Lincoln Heights and Davidson IB. Yesterday, the board took a closer look at all of the district's magnets to make sure the programs are accomplishing what the board expects of them: students perform well, achievement gaps between whites and minorities narrow at a faster rate than the rest of the district and they offer a different approach to learning. It's a plus if the magnets have a diverse student body. Only nine* out of 38 magnet programs satisfy all these expectations. So the board is studying the ones that don't. Superintendent Peter Gorman said not making the cut doesn't automatically doom a program. "We could recommend that a particular magnet program is not meeting the guiding principles and we need to look at something dramatic to improve the performance or closing a magnet," says Gorman. "We could look at particular magnets that are so effective that the board wants more of them or we could be in a situation where the board says move that magnet or put it somewhere else." Several board members say they want to be flexible about expectations and keep in mind other factors in evaluating a program's success. School board member Trent Merchant says a parent's choice to send their child to a magnet pretty much comes down to one factor. "That's one of the big reasons is, 'My school sucks. I'm going to this school. It's better.' That's as simple as it gets," said Merchant. To that end, he says the performance of students should be the most important factor the board should use to evaluate programs. Gorman expects to recommend on September 28th which schools should close and consolidate. The board will hold forums in October to get feedback from parents and students. *Nine magnet programs that meet all expectations: Chantilly Montessori Collingswood Language Academy Idlewild Elementary John M Morehead STEM Academy Statesville Road Elementary Piedmont IB Middle Smith Academy of International Languages South Mecklenburg High West Charlotte High