Hot Topics for CMS: Magnet Schools and Student Assignments

New plan for magnet schools revealed this week

I've been hearing rumor of it for awhile: School re-assignments and changes with magnet schools are coming in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. That is rumor, but reality is the CMS Board of Education is looking at student assignments and is introducing a new plan for magnet schools.

At the Oct. 13 school board meeting, a new magnet school proposal that expands seats at magnet schools is expected from superintendent Ann Clark. Currently about 20,000 of 148,000 CMS students attend magnet programs. Board members have expressed interest in expanding that number. As a parent of a child who attends his neighborhood school that happens to be a magnet school, but who didn't get in through the magnet program, I'm real curious to see how the board and superintendent propose more children be added into the mix as the school is very, VERY close to max capacity. (My guess: neighborhood re-assignments). 

A meeting is scheduled Thursday, Oct. 15 to discuss student assignment. Student assignment is always a hot topic, especially within the city neighborhoods. Much of the discussion surrounds diversity and how to create schools with a better balance of families of different economic levels. The goal is to have new assignments in place by the 2017-18 school year.

This is where it's going to get interesting and I am anxiously awaiting to see proposed plans. Change is inevitable as the city continues to grow, but many families have selected homes based on school zones and there's no doubt there will be uproar. My biggest concern is busing. It was something CMS did many, many years ago. I simply hope that doesn't become a reality for students unless it's based on a family choosing a magnet program that suits their child's learning style.

And that's another thing that keeps popping into my mind — why are parents are choosing magnet schools? Magnet schools are created based on different styles of learning. Traditional, language immersion, visual and performing arts, STEM, STEAM and others are designed with a style of learning in mind, however, many families who live in areas where they don't like their neighborhood school choose a magnet simply to place their child in a "better" school. I'm not an educational consultant or authority to say how to best shift the tides of people choosing magnet programs simply to skirt their neighborhood school assignment, but am anxiously awaiting to see what CMS administrators and board members propose. 

Another hot topic of lately related to CMS schools is the superintendent search. There has been discussion of racial overtones from one CMS parent has expressed concern that talks behind the scenes with superintendent Clark to stay on beyond her contract through summer 2016 shuts out African-American candidates. There is some anticipated heated debate about this at tonight's meeting.

CMS is the second largest public school system in North Carolina (just a few thousand shy of the Wake County, which is the largest). I often wonder would breaking the school system into two — county and city — districts make things better for all involved, from funding to diversity? Stay tuned in to the talk, because if you have a child in CMS, you are likely to be affected.