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Panel Says Community Needs To Tackle Education Problems Together

A school superintendent, a school board chairman and a former governor sat down to talk education last night as part of the build up to the DNC. They didn't solve any problems, but they discussed challenges facing North Carolina students and suggested ways to overcome them. The challenges include fifth graders who can't read, teenagers who drop out, parents who don't check up on their kids, and teachers who don't get the support they need. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison, CMS school board chairwoman Ericka Ellis-Stewart and former Democratic Governor Jim Hunt all agreed on one solution: get the whole community to tackle the problem. But how do you do that? Morrison, the newcomer of the group borrowed an old line about Charlotte. "It is such a can-do attitude," he said. Morrison held up Project LIFT as an example. That's the $55 million private investment in nine struggling CMS schools. But he also said: "We need to think about what's best about public education, how to make public education the very best it can be and make it worthy of the children we serve and stop bashing it all of the time, but be a part of the solution." Hunt said the business community can make a big difference. He thought back to his time as lieutenant governor in the 1970s when most public schools only started at first grade. "Did you know the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce sent a full-time lobbyist to Raleigh to lobby for public school kindergarten," said Hunt. "We didn't have it before. We got it right then with the business leadership of this area." A CMS biology teacher asked what more she could do to reach out to parents. "I'd like to know what sort of engraved invitation I should send to the community to get them to actually come because I've tried and it just hasn't seemed to work yet." Morrison and Ellis-Stewart acknowledged it can be hard to get parents involved, but schools at times have to come to them. A couple hundred people attended last night's meeting at CPCC. It was sponsored by the DNC Host Committee.