Donors Pledge $40 Million To Improve West Charlotte Schools

Feb 1, 2011

A group of community leaders and philanthropists is hatching a plan to boost performance at West Charlotte High School and seven elementary and middle schools that feed into it. The CMS Investment Study Group, as it calls itself, outlined its plans Monday to invest $55 million dollars over five years toward that goal. A handful of family and corporate foundations have already pledged $40 million. West Charlotte has the district's lowest graduation rates at 51 percent. Senior Aleisha Archie-McMillan has seen how her fellow students have struggled. "The challenges at the school as a whole is trying to motivate a student who has an extreme amount of potential, but they don't realize the potential they have," says Archie-McMillan. "Until a teacher says, 'Hey, you have this amount of potential. I see you doing this one day' then that's a struggle because you can't motivate them to do work in class." Archie-McMillan is one of twenty students the CMS Investment Study Group called on for input. She was part of the crowd of business and community leaders that filled West Charlotte's gym Monday to hear what the group had come up with. Stick Williams, the group's co-chair and President of the Duke Energy Foundation was one of several speakers to outline the goals. "We wanted to develop a replicable model for closing the achievement gap and increasing graduation rates and if we were pleased with the model, then secure the funding for the model," said Williams. Members of the group outlined the program's aims using words like 'collective' and 'holistic.' Although there are dollar amounts attached to the focus areas, the group did not give specifics on how it plans to accomplish these goals. The plan targets 7,500 kids from pre-kindergartners to high school seniors. It calls for recruiting and retaining good teachers, more access to technology, drawing on community volunteers to help with things like mentoring, and getting parents involved. The plan allocates $30 million to initiatives aimed at extending learning time, including getting more kids in afterschool programs and summer school. It also calls for pushing for changes at the state level to give the district the flexibility to lengthen the school year. The group expects to release specifics on the plan over the next few months.