To: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials and the Board of Education
The parents of CMS students would like to express our gratitude for the candor and insight you’ve provided us this year regarding the important job you’re doing deciding the future of our schools.
We have asked for years to better understand how you arrive at these important decisions, and you’ve responded this summer and fall by communicating in detail not only your deliberations on schools and student assignment, but all the reports, calculations and steps leading to those deliberations. Thank you.
Now please, make it stop.
Last week, you released “The Case for Continuous Improvement: A Comprehensive Review of CMS,” a report that contained a list of 32 schools that could be targeted for closing, or consolidation, or maybe expansion. On Thursday, the list grew by five schools. It could get even bigger. Or smaller. You aren’t sure.
The report was released at the latest in a series of public meetings at which the school board has developed “guiding principles” for student assignment, then discussed those principles, then revised them and discussed them again, just so we could know exactly what you were thinking.
We appreciate that. We asked for it. But, well, you know how you go to a party and ask someone how work is going, and he tells you he’s glad you asked because it’s not going well and his boss never listens to him and he might be thinking about getting a new job but he’s worried about a gap in health insurance coverage because he really needs to get rid of this cyst right here?
What we’re trying to say is: CMS has a bad case of TMI.
That’s “Too Much Information,” and it seems as if you agree. At that Tuesday session, board member Trent Merchant said fretfully of the list of 32: “We need to do a lot of homework before we throw it out for public discussion.” In an e-mail to staffers, superintendent Peter Gorman said: “Whenever lists are made, anxieties rise.”
He was right. Parents at schools on the list freaked out. Because while transparency is a fine goal, transparency without enough context can scare people.
Now, we all know there’s a crisis of confidence in CMS. The public sees it as an unresponsive, unpredictable monolith, and parents are tired of being unsure which school their children will be in next year, in three years, in 10. It’s why the board wisely has stressed stability this year – not only as its top “guiding principle,” but right down to the civil tone in which board members disagree.
That new tone is very intentional. A flammable debate gives the impression of uncertainty – that whoever shouts loudest wins the next battle. A civil, informed discussion has the best chance of bringing everyone together.
And boy, are we getting informed.
Really, we appreciate it. We had no idea until reading “The Case for Continuing Improvement” this week that there were statistics called FCI (Facility Condition Index) and PCI (Performance Cost Indicator). But, well, you know how sometimes you have a high schooler who is buried in math homework, and you lean over to help but see words like “theoretical and real standard deviation,” so you decide instead to say, “hang in there”?
Hang in there.
Let us know when you have something a little firmer to share.
And if it involves messing with our school? Then you’ll have some explaining to do.