Long, Strange Trip

Looking back at CMS's tumultuous year



For CMS, this past year has been part soap opera, part Jerry Springer what with the half dozen protests, budget cuts, and a changing of minds—it’s Harding! No, we meant Waddell! It’s so confusing we’re still shaking our heads. A look at how the drama unfolded this year.

MARCH

03/10 CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman says school closings are only a worst-case option and are not part of the plan to slash up to $65 million from the district’s 2010-11 budget.

MAY

05/18 Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones releases a budget proposal recommending a staggering $81.1 million in cuts to county services including—you guessed it—$21.3 million in cuts to CMS.

JUNE

06/02 The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education announces a comprehensive review of the district, aka cuts, and potentially the
closing of schools.

6/04 County commissioners agree to revise sales tax projections to restore $6 million of the proposed cuts to CMS. The next day, Gorman says the district will still lay off 530 teachers and other instructors.

06/21-28 CMS holds open community forums, welcoming public input on the review process. Conveniently, parents are given little notice, most of the forums are during the day, and many families are away on summer vacations.

06/29 The board ranks thirteen priorities—from student achievement to capping home-school enrollment—to help CMS officials draft options for 2011-12 budget changes.

06/30 Offering a sneak peek into his money-saving strategy, Gorman states reassuringly that he won’t take “the easy way” when closing at least ten schools in the 2011-2012 school year.

JULY

07/01 A new state budget—complete with a must-fill $4.1 billion gap due to school construction—reinforces the need to cut into CMS operations.

07/27 Gotcha! The board decides to start over with its list of thirteen priorities.

SEPTEMBER

09/07 CMS announces “change” is on its way for thirty-two schools.

09/09 CMS ups its list to thirty-seven schools. The board meets to discuss closings and consolidations.

09/14 The board votes on the district’s 2010-11 budget, bracing itself for a $79 million cut. Later, CMS finds out it only needs to implement a $59 million reduction thanks to final state and county allotments. (Looks like some teachers get their jobs back.)

09/28 CMS proposes to close about ten schools and make huge “changes” in twenty-five others.

09/29 CMS picks twelve schools for possible closure.

OCTOBER

10/04 Six schools fall off the list of schools expecting “change.” Not knowing what they’re getting themselves into, board members schedule a series of public hearings.

10/11 The state kindly asks the district to prepare for up to 15 percent cuts (between $30 million and $90 million in reductions).

10/12 During a CMS public forum, a large protest erupts from west-side school supporters. Two are arrested, including NAACP President Kojo Nantambu.

10/16 Hundreds march in an uptown rally, also protesting the closings of CMS schools like Waddell High.

10/25 Looks like the protests worked—CMS announces Harding University High will replace Waddell High on the closings list.

10/29 For the first time in his tenure, Gorman does not unveil new programs during his annual State of the Schools address. You see, new programs cost money.

NOVEMBER

11/02 Villa Heights Elementary parents join the protests, complaining that a move to Lincoln Heights Elementary exposes their children to harmful air pollution from I-77.

11/03 After some rowdy meetings, the board takes a deep breath as it holds its fifteenth and final public forum.

11/07 CMS board member Trent Merchant e-mails the board, asking to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the “Waddell-Harding-Smith-Berry-South Meck” decision. Because, you know, putting off tough decisions always makes them easier.

11/08 Psych! CMS staff pulls Harding off the closings list, changing the magnet school into a neighborhood school. Waddell High gets put back on.

11/09 The board elects to go on with the vote, and in a five-four decision votes to close Waddell along with ten other ill-fated schools. Maximum annual savings? $6 million.

DECEMBER

12/07 Gorman says “this is only the tip of the iceberg … there is going to be more consternation.” Up next: as much as $100 million in cuts from the state. Here we go again.

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