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Charlotte Area News

Gates Foundation Funds PR For CMS Reforms

Changes underway at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are about to get some more air play. Not as a result of contentious school board meetings, but because the Charlotte Chamber is managing an ad campaign to educate people about reforms at CMS. The spots will air for the next month or so on cable TV and other outlets including WFAE. They're paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What you won't hear in the advertising is any mention of Pay for Performance. That's the district's controversial plan to tie teacher pay to student test scores and it's a big part of the CMS strategic plan. But the chamber's Natalie English thinks people are too hung up on that. "I'm not sure that it's fair to say that Pay for Performance is a big part. The big part of the 2014 plan is ensuring that we're educating our kids better," says English. While the ads will downplay Pay for Performance, the program gets top billing on the school district's website for the strategic plan. English says the new ad campaign managed by the chamber will emphasize the plans overall goals of improving student and teacher performance and raising graduation rates. Judy Kidd a CMS Teacher and President of the Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina isn't impressed by the spots. "Frankly, we view it as a way for the Chamber to manipulate the upcoming board of education elections," says kids. English says the Chamber was approached by the Gates Foundation a year-and-a-half ago, but waited to launch the campaign until after the school budget was finalized. She says former CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman helped develop the campaign along with other local business and community leaders.