LIVE BLOG: CMS school assignment public hearing
Follow along with us as speakers make their cases; board vote expected June 6
Good evening! This is a Ledger LIVE BLOG of the CMS school board meeting of May 23, 2023 — with a public hearing on south Charlotte school assignment.
The Ledger has been covering this issue extensively over the last year, and now the decision is drawing close. The board is expected to vote on plans June 6. Stick with The Ledger for continuing coverage of this issue and other important local news and insights. If you need to subscribe, to our free or paid version, you can do that here.
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The Ledger’s Cristina Bolling and Lindsey Banks are on the scene tonight at the Government Center and will have a full story in Wednesday’s edition of The Ledger. This is written by Tony Mecia.
Sneed: “We take your comments seriously, and for serious consideration.” That’s it for the public hearing.
They move onto consent agenda, folks filing out.
That’s going to be it for us tonight.
Full coverage in tomorrow’s Charlotte Ledger. If you need to get on the list, sign up here:
Thank you, and good night!
Stephanie Sneed says to parent Robin Medlin: “You win the award for being the last speaker of the night.”
No vote tonight. That’s June 6.
A lot of Alexander Graham Middle parents who would be switched from Myers Park to South Meck making a couple points:
The AG campus is next to Myers Park, and holds many activities at Myers Park
This section of Alexander Graham, where students went to Sharon Elementary, will leave student isolated at South Meck. That’s because a lot of their peers will remain at Myers Park. They have been saying it’s just 15% of students going to South Meck, an estimated 200 kids, parents say.
This is mostly a section between Sharon and Carmel roads, south of Fairview. It was not affected in earlier drafts. Other parts of Sharon Elementary were listed as going to Carmel and South Meck in earlier drafts:
(Blue lines are current high school boundaries, green zone is new South Meck, red is new Providence, yellow is new Myers Park)
Speaker says the previous map, Draft 2, was superior. The latest one, he says, is a “gerrymander.”
“The map looks like an aardvark. C’mon. Its not normal.”
I think he was referring to Olde Providence:
It is now after 10:00.
This meeting has been going for more than 4 hours. Can it beat last night’s City Council meeting, which was 5.5 hours?
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Speaker from Sharon/Alexander Graham/Myers Park says she’s so tired “I’m about to fall over.”
Says it is not fair to send kids to South Meck when almost all of their friends will not be with them. Says she couldn’t even get a babysitter for tonight for her kids, “that’s how recent you threw this on us.”
Speaker from Polo Ridge says she is an immigrant and prefers they stay at Polo Ridge.
A lot of Polo Ridge speakers who are arguing to be in favor of staying at Ardrey Kell, instead of going to the new high school, appear to be of Indian origin. CMS’ 2022-23 diversity report says 34% of Polo Ridge students are Asian.
Overall, 7% of CMS students are Asian, according to CMS data.
Father of 2 kids at J.M. Robinson and Polo Ridge says “too many changes and too big a change [cause] adversity.” Says building a new school requires a lot of hard work.
Says “kids and their families must not be burdened with multiple changes.” Says kids are having “sleepless nights” because of this likely change and “a lot of stress.”
Says there should be no plan for any community to attend two new schools.
From Ledger subscriber Sheila Chillcott in the comments:
Appreciate the blog. thank you. CMS needs to look at their own criteria for:
4 goals of SES, Neighborhoods, Feeder Patterns, and Home to School Distance.
No reason for Stone Creek Ranch, south of Ballantyne Commons and 90% EAST of Tom Short Road to move to Relief school on 521 and Endhaven when many communities are closer.
Here’s the latest draft of school assignment in the Ballantyne area. Blue line is current boundary. Purple is new Ardrey Kell, and blue is new high school as proposed:
Ledger subscriber Todd Fuller in the comments:
I am a [Ledger] subscriber and a parent of three that is/were/are at Elizabeth Lane Elementary, and will be/are at South Charlotte Middle School - we hope.... I was also actively involved in the 2020 New Lansdowne Elementary School reassignment.... This reassignment (South County Relief) is a massive project, far larger than the 2020 issue.
Elizabeth Lane Elementary is being split in the latest draft - Draft #3 - with the eastern half being moved to Crestdale MS. We prefer Draft #2 over Draft #3 which keeps all of Elizabeth Lane Elementary at South Charlotte Middle School. Draft #3 splits ELE; half to SCMS and half moved to Crestdale MS.
We are (fortunately) still at South Charlotte MS in Draft #3, in Draft #3 Alexander Road is being used as a new dividing line for the most part. While I still question if adding even part of ELE and all its buses to the NC DOT's #1 Worst Corridor in NC - Pineville-Matthews Road (NC-51) between Sardis Road Monroe Road/John Street is not a great idea, and it splits ELE, it is going to be tough to make 100% of people happy and 0% of anybody involved not happy in any draft with a reassignment of this magnitude.
Just seems there are going to have to be trade-offs. At least the homes on the south/west side of Alexander Road have a closer distance to SCMS and a much faster commute because they get to avoid the NC DOT's #1 Worst Corridor.
J.P. Matthews, an Endhaven parent in the Thornhill neighborhood, says “At no point in this process were we approached about a change.”
Folks in that neighborhood would be sent to Quail Hollow Middle, which they say is too far.
The Ledger explained the Thornhill situation last week:
In the Thornhill neighborhood, off Elm Lane and Ballantyne Commons Parkway in the Ballantyne area, community members have been circulating a letter to send to school board members. It had 133 signatures by Thursday night.
The community of 430 homes is being switched from Jay M. Robinson to Quail Hollow Middle School under the new plan, which involves a longer commute. Four years ago, Thornhill was rezoned from Community House Middle, its closest middle school at just 2.3 miles away, to Jay M. Robinson, which sits 2.7 miles from the neighborhood. Quail Hollow would be 5.7 miles away from Thornhill, and there are four other middle schools that sit closer, said Jason Dzurka, a father of two who lives in Thornhill.
“Our biggest concern is transparency,” Dzurka said. “There were other neighborhoods who had plenty of time to mobilize and have meetings with board members.”
“Then this last (plan) all of a sudden comes out and we’re rushing around. You have the end of school, and the meeting taking place on Tuesday. They never came to us and said, ‘We’re thinking about doing this.’ You would expect some sort of communication.”
Parent says under current proposal, Providence Country Club and Ballantyne Country Club would go to Ardrey Kell, not the new high school.
Because of that, “Ardrey Kell potentially becomes the most affluent school in the state,” she says. Says those areas should go to the new high school off Johnston Road instead.
Polo Ridge parents hitting the “opening two schools” argument hard.
Under current plan, they would go to the new middle school in the Rea Farms area (that depends on passage of this year’s school bond) and to the new high school, off Johnston Road in the Ballantyne area.
They say it’s hard to get schools up and running, with athletics, PTAs and the like, and that they shouldn’t have to bear that burden.
Just pointing out that historically, south Charlotte in general and the Ballantyne area in particular have wanted more schools to be built to address overcrowding and trailers. Now that they are on the verge of coming online, the details of where students are going and the upheaval that creates are at issue here.
Just got a photo from a Ledger reader in the audience:
We’re happy to take your comments and questions. Can use “leave a comment” feature. (Open to paying Ledger members.)
Comments so far:
“Following along and appreciate your coverage!”
“Thanks for doing this live blog.”
“Look at how they are putting Challis farms to new high school when they are closer to South Mecklenburg! Money talks with this school board!”
Olde Providence mom says the split of Olde Providence Elementary has unleashed “nasty conversations with people, and we are no longer a community.”
Says looking at the boundary map, “three sides are going to Providence, and I am going to South Meck. That is ridiculous! … It is literally a cutout. That is not acceptable.”
The Ledger’s Cristina Bolling now in da house at the Government Center, after a school obligation earlier this evening.
She passes along a comment from a contact:
Please write Ballantyne Elementary is NOT Ballantyne Country Club. Polo Ridge has a much higher SES than Ballantyne Elementary. … Also Polo Ridge keeps saying they shouldn’t have to do 2 new schools. They are very good with Ballantyne Elementary doing 2 new schools, though.
First speaker after the break says he’s a firefighter whose two kids attend Alexander Graham. Daughter will attend Myers Park next year. But it will be switched to South Meck after that under latest plan, “putting her and her peers under undue stress.” Says he worries about her and others’ mental health.
Says if there’s a fire, you want a fire station close by. Same thing with schools, he says.
I have seen several of these school reassignment debates, but a new wrinkle that I have not seen is so many parents saying CMS buses are unreliable, so that distance from school is actually worse than you might think.
Polo Ridge mom says she is not a public speaker: “I feel like I’m going to vomit soon.” Says sending kids to new high school will disrupt safe space for children with disabilities, such as her daughter, Caroline, who has Down syndrome. Polo Ridge currently attends Ardrey Kell.
(She got through without vomiting.)
Vice chair Stephanie Sneed says they are halfway through speakers. Need to take 10 minute break. So we are on hiatus until roughly 9:10.
🚨 Breaking south Charlotte school news, not quite on topic: Carmel Middle principal says he’s leaving to become principal at Mallard Creek High.
Letter to Carmel parents obtained by The Charlotte Ledger:
This evening, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education announced my appointment as the new principal of Mallard Creek High School. As I shared with our staff this afternoon, it has been an absolute honor to lead this vibrant school community and be a part of Carmel’s outstanding tradition.
When I arrived at Carmel six years ago, I could not begin to imagine the impact all of you would have on me, but I can confidently say that I have become a better educator and person by working alongside you. I will forever be proud to say that I worked at Carmel Middle School, and I cannot thank you enough for making my time at Carmel so meaningful. I am certain our staff will continue to support and grow the community we serve, and further impact our next generation in the most important of ways. We are going to have a fantastic end-of-year, and this is an exciting time to be at Carmel.
Dr. Laura Rosenbach, Central Learning Community Superintendent, will be reaching out to you in regards to the Carmel Middle principal selection process.
Dr. Jared Thompson
Carmel Middle School
Parent at Olde Providence Elementary raises issue of school board member Lisa Cline living in Olde Providence.
Cline lives in a portion of the Olde Providence area that would go to Providence, which is seen by many in the area as more desirable as going to South Meck. That neighborhood in the previous draft was shown as going to South Meck. Some parents in the OP area whose kids are not headed to Providence have been highlighting (in emails and conversations) that Cline lives in the small portion that will go to Providence.
Vice chair Stephanie Sneed shuts the parent down, says board rules do not allow calling out board members.
Cline lives in this portion indicated by black circle:
Hamashu Meal (sp?) parent at Polo Ridge: “I’m begging you. Please send them back to Ardrey Kell.”
Says CMS shouldn’t follow “AI models of Harvard or Stanford. Just apply common sense.”
Dennis LaCaria has said CMS used artificial intelligence to compile parent feedback.
Bernadette Joyce of Olde Providence area says “keeping the children together from elementary to high school is most important.”
Says 9th grade daughter, after her first dance wanted to go to her first high school party. She said, “Stop, let’s talk safety. I barely had to say anything to these kids. ‘I promise we won’t drink anything. We won’t eat anything. … We wont leave anyone alone.’ This is the trust and love these kids have for one another.”
Says she is happy juniors are being allowed to finish at their high schools. “I just hope and pray you consider changing these boundaries and letting all of Olde Providence Elementary go to Providence High School.”
Polo Ridge dad says: “Please do not do this. Do not assign these 1,000 students to 2 new schools. … Please do the right thing.”
An Endhaven mom of 6 kids says her “time with them will be attacked by busing middle schoolers to a farther school.”
Quail Hollow Middle is more than an hour one way, she says. “Our kids will be spending hours traveling to and from school.”
Polo Ridge parent says latest CMS plans goes against guiding principles: “Please rezone Polo Ridge back to AK.”
One Polo Ridge mother says she worries about the school bus delays. “This proposal would transport our children even further away from their homes, adding time on CMS buses,” she says. Says proposal would mean longer commutes and possibly subject them to scandals like sexual assault on CMS buses.
Says “our kids would be forced to say farewell to their friends not just once, but twice.”
Joanna Feltovich, who lives in Governor’s Square neighborhood, tells the board “11 hour inclusion” isn’t fair. Now zoned for Myers Park, would move to South Meck.
“We don’t even get the opportunity to have the conversations and present our cases like all the other communities have over the last 14 months,” says Joanna Feltovich, who has children in grades 6 and 7 at Randolph Middle School, an IB magnet, and who looked forward to their continuing in IB at Myers Park. She says she has followed the process closely and that the neighborhood has been “watching from the sidelines” because there were no proposed changes in earlier drafts.
She says the new plan fails at all of CMS’ stated considerations for school assignments: It doubles her children’s distance to school, disrupts feeder patterns by splitting Sharon Elementary into three segments, has no effect on socioeconomic status and leaves Myers Park High below its target capacity.
The new boundary line, Fairview Road, also splits the Foxcroft East neighborhood, with the northern portion — including the Foxcroft East Racquet & Swim Club — zoned for Myers Park, and the southern portion assigned to South Meck.
“I get that Fairview seems like this easy line, but nobody is talking to the people in the community,” Feltovich says. “They’re not giving us a voice.”
She says she and others have contacted school board members and plan to speak at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
More on the “Kuykendall wedge,” which is off Providence Road near I-485:
These folks currently go to Crestdale Middle, on the other side of Matthews (upper right).
Would be rezoned to J.M. Robinson, which is much closer (lower left).
Speakers from “the Kuykendall wedge” like the plan.
One woman from “the Kuykendall wedge” says she supports move to J.M. Robinson Middle School. Now attend Crestdale Middle, which she says is too far.
Next speaker says, “I will continue our advocacy for ‘the Kuykendall wedge.’” Says “the needs of our area have been forgotten.” Says map sending area to J.M. Robinson stirred “feelings of hope” among longtime residents. Urges support of current plan and no delayed vote.
(I admit I had to look up the spelling of “Kuykendall.”)
◼️ Scott Salem of the Olde Providence neighborhood zone says he would like for the entire OP zone to go to Providence High. Now it is split, some to Providence, some to South Meck.
Says he realizes it is a compromise, pushed back against an earlier speaker who asked for all of Carmel Middle to go to South Meck.
◼️Caroline Bailey, a 2022 graduate of South Meck who attends UNC Chapel Hill and is wearing red South Meck T-shirt, says she loves the diversity of South Meck.
◼️ A parent of rising 5th graders at Olde Providence Elementary: “Why would we break a feeder pattern for only 10% of the cohort population?” Said it’s hard to see the South Meck/Providence split in Olde Providence as “anything other than a gerrymandered map.”
Many of the speakers so far focusing on Olde Providence split. Some going to Providence, some to South Meck. Today, they all go to Myers Park.
Kate Stokes, an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle, says: “My middle school is next door to Myers Park, and I already feel like I’m a part of the school.” New map would send her to South Meck, “a school I have never been to, where I know very few people.”
First speaker is Rana Santooni (sp?), a 4th grader at Providence Spring Elementary. “Thank you very much for Draft 3” that sends us to J.M. Robinson Middle School.
Superintendent Crystal Hill, in her first report to the school board after being appointed superintendent last week, thanks the school board for appointing her.
Vice chair Stephanie Sneed says there are 105 people on the list tonight: “We will try to get to it as quickly as possible and as attentively as we can.”
You can put this one on your Spotify playlist: a Charlotte Ledger podcast Q&A with Claire Schuch, CMS director of planning services. She talked with our Cristina Bolling late last year.
At-large board member Jennifer De La Jara expresses her gratitude for all of staff’s work on the plan, including allowing rising juniors to stay at their school.
Says she is concerned about the communications with neighborhoods affected by the latest changes, who weren’t that engaged until their area was altered. “I think we may need to look at some alternate.”
Loud cheers by the crowd.
Dennis LaCaria says there will be “additional conversations with the board.”
Lisa Cline, who represents south Charlotte, asks what kind of flexibility there will be for students to switch to different schools.
Dennis LaCaria says CMS is “working with an internal team” on the specifics at particular schools.
Cline says she would like numbers of students affected by neighborhood, “especially for the ones who just found out in this new map.”
CMS official now describing changes to magnet programs.
And with that, it’s 7:00, and I’m busting into my first glass of wine. (I’m at home, not at Government Center.)
The Ledger’s Cristina Bolling will be on the scene soon (without wine, probably.)
If you’re drinking anything, what are you drinking? You can drop it in the comments (if you are a paying Ledger member).
This is a 57-page presentation.
Here are the slides on socioeconomic status, current vs. proposed, for high schools, middle schools and elementary schools:
Claire Schuch, CMS director of planning services, now walking the board through the details of the plan, such as differences in SES background. Tried to level out SES levels “To the extent that’s possible in this area.”
Here’s the link to tonight’s presentation:
Dennis LaCaria, CMS’s executive director of capital planning, says CMS started this process with 43 school attended by 47,000 students. About 27,000 could have been impacted by changes, he says.
Now there are 3,500 students involved. About 1/3 have options to start early at a new school or remain at school from which they would graduate, LaCaria says.
“We have improved SES diversity across the board,” LaCaria said. Hopes to draw lines that “can stand 10 years.”
Says it has been challenging to draw boundaries given socioeconomic patterns.
Bryan Schultz of CMS outlining all the community engagement CMS has done.
South Charlotte planning website got 25,463 clicks, and 8,000 views of online interactive map, Schultz says.
Schultz says tonight’s version is the same as released on May 15, with a few small technical corrections.
Introduces Dennis LaCaria.
Here we go. Superintendent Crystal Hill recognizes staff to present recommendations.
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The update is continuing on student outcome goals.
Some of the most vocal groups we are expected to hear from tonight on school assignment:
The Governor’s Square and Foxcroft East neighborhoods in the SouthPark area, who now attend Alexander Graham and Myers Park High, and would shift to South Meck under latest plan.
Polo Ridge Elementary, which now attends Ardrey Kell and would shift to the new high school off Johnston Road in the Ballantyne area.
There are other groups, who are mostly content with the existing plan, including:
Ballantyne Elementary, which now would continue to Ardrey Kell, and was penciled in for the new high school under earlier drafts.
The Olde Providence neighborhood. Part of Olde Providence would go to Providence under the latest draft, and part would go to South Meck.
South Meck. Parents here were concerned in earlier drafts that there was too high a concentration of low socioeconomic status (SES) students. But now that figure is lower.
In the meantime, you might enjoy some previous Ledger coverage of south Charlotte school assignment:
“‘Blindsided’ neighborhoods fight CMS boundary plan” (🔒, May 17):
The boundary plan, which is now in the hands of the school board, affects 27 schools attended by tens of thousands of kids. It was created by CMS staff after more than a year of drafts, meetings and online feedback forms.
The revisions released Monday pleased some areas — including Ballantyne Elementary and parts of Olde Providence — that had earlier lodged complaints about proposals that they said would shift students to schools too far away or split them from peers.
But other areas of south Charlotte — including Polo Ridge near Rea Farms, Governor’s Square and Foxcroft East near SouthPark and Thornhill near Ballantyne — were caught off guard by this week’s changes and fear they lack adequate time to respond to the latest draft. Some parents told The Ledger they felt “blindsided” by shifts at the 11th hour.
Superintendent Crystal Hill, in her first meeting since having the “interim” removed from her title is giving an update on student outcome goals.
From Lindsey Banks at the Government Center:
Just about every person has a sign:
“Rezone Olde Providence to Providence”
“Polo Ridge 2 Ardrey Kell”
Students filtering out.
Ann Doss Helms of WFAE reported today:
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is expecting more than 100 people to turn out for a public hearing Tuesday night on changing school boundaries in the southern part of the county. At two minutes for each speaker, that would be about 3 1/2 hours, or longer than the runtime of the movie "Titanic."
A Ledger reader sent in this photo — parents in the SouthPark area who now go to Alexander Graham—>Myers Park High but would switch to South Meck under latest draft.
They’re pointing out that AG is right next to Myers Park, where they would prefer to stay.
Board meeting getting going. Vice chair Stephanie Sneed with the gavel. Chair Elyse Dashew is participating remotely — it was disclosed last week that she came down with Covid.
Recognizing student scholars. Big rounds of applause, with a lot of people in the chamber.
More photos from Lindsey of the crowd at the Government Center:
Should have noted this earlier, but you can watch the meeting yourself on the Board of Education’s Facebook page:
From The Ledger’s Lindsey Banks, on scene:
I did not anticipate how long the line would be to get thru security. There’s so many people here.
A lot of people in green, holding signs that say things like “2 schools = 2 much”
The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. You can find the agenda here.
There is an item before the school assignment presentation and public hearing: “Report — Student Outcomes Focused Governance — Goal 4: Interim Goal 4.1 (Math)”
Sometimes agendas get shifted around when there are a lot of speakers. There are more than 90 signed up to speak on school assignment tonight.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project