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Task Forces Present Ideas To Improve CMS

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison wanted some input on how the district should move forward.  Monday night, 22 task forces gave him feedback that included hiring a CMS ombudsman, requiring students to get some workplace experience and starting a school for African American males. 

More than 400 people have been working since January on these recommendations.  They include teachers, parents, community leaders, even a few students.  Last night they provided a glimpse into their thinking.  Each task force had three minutes to outline their recommendations. 

Some themes emerged like expanding education out of the classroom.  CMS Southwest Zone Director Kathy Elling and her group said that should include time on local college campuses, be it a tour, a camp, or even a class. 

“We know that our area campuses have unique skills and things to offer and we just need to match that up with the right age kid and get them out there as soon as possible,” said Elling.    

Another group proposed requiring students complete some kind of an internship or job-shadowing that would give them a taste of the working world. 

Improving communication within the district and beyond was another theme.  Ellen Martin and her task force looked at ways to better engage families.  They advised appointing one person at each school to take parents’ questions.  And if that isn’t enough, parents could go to an ombudsman. 

“There would be an ombudsman to the district office who would take the appropriate steps to get something resolved,” said Martin.    

Nick Wharton runs a consulting firm dealing with diversity.  His group looked at improving the performance of African American boys, a student group that lags behind most others as far as graduation rates and test scores. They want CMS to better train teachers to work with these students and also to start a school specifically for black male students like ones in Detroit and New York. 

“There’s a number of different programs that are very creative in channeling the leadership skills and attitudes of young African American boys and having them focus in a way that really highlights their intellectual energy, their athletic energy and their scholarly pursuits,” said Wharton.    

It’s hard to say how much some of these recommendations would cost.  Several of them include hiring more teachers and counselors.  Superintendent Heath Morrison says adding something new will likely require subtracting something else, but he’s hopeful the district will be able to incorporate much of the advice. 

“We won’t be able to do all the recommendations, but I want every one of these recommendations to be vetted, to be scrutinized, to be really given deliberate intentionality by myself and our school board and our executive staff and a lot of them you’ll find in our new strategic plan,” said Morrison.    

He expects that plan to be released in September or October. 

CMS will release the task forces complete recommendations later this week.