July 25, 2007
Gorman pitches bonds, says loss at polls
would lead many to 'give up' on CMS
CMS Supt. Peter Gorman Tuesday offered a spirited pitch for the $516 million bond package approved later Tuesday evening by the school board. But he said voters should visit schools themselves and see the needs.
Rejection of the bonds in November, he said, might prompt "massive numbers of folks... giving up on CMS. I sure don't want to live in an area where people quit caring about schools."
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, Gorman pointed to principals as key to school improvement, declared that concentrations of poverty in some schools makes educators' jobs harder, argued that quality teachers can overcome obstacles from overlarge classes, and said he was impatient with progress made in closing achievement gaps.
And he made a plea to the entire community for help addressing family and
neighborhood issues that limit students' preparation to learn but over which
the schools have no direct control.
Gorman reviewed the $516 million package that would later Tuesday evening be endorsed 7-2 by the school board The money would, he said, be split with one-third going toward renovation and two-thirds toward new construction, "which is similar to formats which have been used in previous years."
With the total far below the $1.4 billion need for facilities, he said CMS would "still have to back repeatedly" for additional support. And the $516 million "is just a cap" imposed by county commissioners, Gorman noted. "They don't have to approve to put $516 million on the ballot." But "our students desperately need these facilities."
"If you are a student at Garinger High School, the quality of science education you get is substandard, because we can't offer you the same labs and experiences at Garinger that we can at other schools.
"If your child goes to Hawk Ridge Elementary School, due to overcrowding we can't offer you the same experience because your child can't get in the library every week because they have 39 trailers.... We've got needs on both ends."
Gorman said he was not surprised that early school board votes on the bond package were not unanimous.
"Our board is representative of our community," Gorman said. "Our community doesn't all agree on what are the priorities. We have communi-ties, folks with different experiences, live in different areas. I think our board does represent our community and communi-ties, but we've not been able to get everyone to coalesce around an option."
To help pass the bond package, Gorman said CMS was working on analogies. An example: Would the bond issue cost the average household a pizza a month?
Asked later for his argument in favor of approving the November bond issue, Gorman replied:
"The first message I would give you is go out and look at the schools, and experience it, and see it. Go to University Meadows. Do you know, if your child goes to University Meadows that you can't walk your child to class? There's nowhere for you to park. You're not allowed in the school. Think about that connection.
"I'll tell you I think that impacts student achievement -- when Mom and Dad can't make a connection with the teacher on a regular basis. My wife picks up our daughter every day at school and looks that teacher in the eye and asks the question, Did Katie have a good day? Pretty powerful thing to know what's going on....
"Go to Harding. It's a math-science magnet. Look at the science facility. Cochrane is a math-science magnet. By the way, both of those are under public-private partnership [renovations].
"Go to Vance. Look at the overcrowding at Vance and look at the fact that when kids sign up for certain classes, that they can't take it because we've got a particular room we need to offer that in, and we're so overcrowded at Vance that you can't take the classes you think you need to get into college because we're too overcrowded.
"I encourage you to see it, look at it, experience it for yourself. And don't do it through me. Contact the school. Go to the school. Do it with no dogs and ponies. Just visit the school; we'll show it to you. We'll take you on tours, and we'll probably do that before the bond, but don't do it that way: Go on your own. Go look on your own and see what it's really like.
"Go look at West Meck's stadium, and see if you're sitting there, go see the visitor's side of West Meck's stadium and tell me if you'll let your kid come up in the stands with you. I didn't. Go see some of those things."
Asked what would happen if the bonds fail, Gorman said CMS can go back to commissioners for COPs, the "certificates of participation" that are loans but do not require voter approval. "But I think there is a lot of distrust related to COPs, due to other 'stuff.' But that's one alternative.
"Regarding seats and capacity, alternative scheduling is something we're looking at. Do we look at going year-round? Do we look at going double-session? Please don't leave here and say Pete said we're going to go year-round. I'm not saying that.
"I'm just saying you've got to look at this stuff because you've got to plan it, because there is a ruling by Judge Manning that said you can't do that on your own; you have to ask parents if they're willing to go on. So if we're going to do something like that, we have to look at, first, do we push local legislation that changes it so you can do it on your own without asking permission? How do we do that? What facilities? Where? So we're looking at that piece too.
"Some folks have already come and and said, gee, you're looking at that -- you're just doing that as a threat. Well, the reality is if we don't do it -- we're scheduled to spend $15 million in 2008 on portables. That's one year's worth of purchasing portables. One year. By the way, that's more than an elementary school, just to get something temporary. So that's on the capacity piece.
"For the renovation piece, there's not another [funding source]. We cannot double-use the facilities, fixing for renovation. The only other potential hope that we could have for renovations would be if we said to folks, well, we're going to shut down your school and get rid of it, try to take the money from selling it to try and renovate another one. That's a lousy solution.... Theres not state money coming. There's not a whole lot of county money coming that's just sitting there in an extra pot. This is it. The state's looking at us saying, you fix it. We've got to look inside."
Asked whether the bond issue would be equitably balanced between suburban and urban needs, Gorman said that "in some cases it depends on where you are how people measure equity" but that his final proposal put two-thirds into new construction, one-third into renovation.
"I originally proposed 80-20. It was stupid. Here's what 80-20 did. It drew
a line in the sand and it said, 79, bad. 81, better. What I should have said
is, we need new classrooms. By the way, the recommendation I am making is
for 697 new classrooms. The recommendation that I am making will have 12
major renovations. We'll also include other work at 18 schools. We're trying
to spread this out over the whole community. Everyone has involvement in
"Some people will look at this and say, yeah, but it's the priorities. Do this first, do that first. There's nothing on the list I'm recommending that's not a priority. Everything is needed....
"We have needs in both areas [new construction and renovation]. We've got to equitably split that so folks believe it, support it, follow it. I have folks who say I won't support a bond because it does include this or it does include that. We've got to have something in it for the whole community. The whole community's got to coalesce behind this. Everyone's got to get this. Everyone's got need. Right now I do think two-thirds one-third is about the split it should be. We've got those dramatic needs, and I do think there's something in this for all communities. Every area has something in the game...."
Former CMS teacher Richard McElrath, who was in the audience and said he opposed the 2005 bond issue and may oppose the 2007 bonds, said CMS could not solve the community's problems alone. Housing patterns yield the concentration of poverty that make it impossible to educate all children. "I'm going to keep knocking bonds until I get somebody's attention," he said. Gorman's response:
"Part of it I agree with. [Housing Authority President] Charles [Woodyard] and I actually meet quarterly. We discuss housing patterns, how we can work together. We've looked at a particular community, how we put a school in there, things like that. I'll tell you, to use that, though, I think you're using kids as a tool, and in my personal opinion it's wrong. That you're saying you won't support kids with bonds for schools because I disagree with this other piece. And that someday we've got to look at a group of kids and say that we wrote 'em off, or we didn't give them the resources they need because the change won't come in the way or the method.
"I just think our kids are struggling. To go to a group of kids at Garinger and say, I want you to go to college and I want you to be successful, but don't plan on being a scientist, because you've got no lab experience because we can't offer it to you and I'm using this as tool to show how we need to change housing patterns. Richard, I so deeply disagree with that, because I think that what we're doing is, we've got a big issue that we've got to address somehow, and I'm afraid that we're putting it on the backs of the most defenseless folks if we take that strategy."
McElrath responded that he had asked principals and parents throughout the system two questions: Is your child receiving a sound basic education, and is the child in a safe, secure environment. Answers at overcrowded schools are uniformally "yes." At the high-poverty schools that McElrath calls "overloaded" schools, the answers are uniformally "no." "I'm talking about the education of children," McElrath contended. "You're talking about comfort."
Gorman replied, "I disagree. I think it's unsafe when you have 69 portables
at a high school. That's fine, I understand how you feel. I just deeply,
deeply disagree. I know I'm not going to change your opinion and that's
fine. But I think we do have schools that are unsafe, some due to the
physical plant being in poor repair, and others because they're overcrowded.
We do have an impact on the educational environment: When your kid can't get
to the library every week, that's not appropriate. We've got pressures from
all the areas, and we've got to address them."
Gorman was asked how he passed on to principals "that high expectations can motivate the teachers to get the kids to make those [higher test scores].
"It starts with the principal first and foremost," Gorman replied. "That's the key lever for that change. The example I'll give you: You know Stan Frazier. He was at Merry Oaks. Now he's at Waddell. If the principal sets those expectations high, if the principal provides that support, if the principal provides that enthusiasm, the care and the love, the quality teachers come to work with that principal. They're a magnet for great teachers. A quality principal attracts great teachers and repels poor teachers because they don't let a poor teacher stay in their zone of comfort or, frankly, evaluates and fire someone. The leader is the key piece.
"How do we make sure we have the best principals that need it the most? And then the question I got asked by a member of the community is, what determines the school that needs it the most: Is it just student achievement? Is it complexity? Is it poverty? Is it the other things? I tell you I think we should probably fall back and look at student achievement as where we need them the most.
"Right now I'm in the position where I personally interview every principal candidate, ever AP [assistant principal] candidate. We're right now accepting about two-thirds of the candidates they brought forward to us because I simply don't think some are the instructional leaders that we need. They may have made the grade logging in the buses, giving the keys out, and those are important things. But if you can't increase student achievement -- so it does start with a leader.
"We have some great principals. We don't have every principal that's great. We're working on changing that.
"By the way: Do you know how many principals we hired in '05-'06? Forty-six.
Is it a reasonable expectation that we can find 46 great principals in one
year? We have to do something to stem that turnover tide, and that's one
thing we're focusing on. We also hope to hear this week on a grant to start
training our next group of principals. We'll put 35 people a year in, where
we will tap star teachers -- but remember how we keep great teachers in the
classroom, well, here we go again, we're going to pull 35 out, tap 35 a
year. We'll send them to graduate school. We'll pay for their graduate
school. They'll get a one-year internship with our highest-performing
principals. And then we'll have them ready. We'll try to grow our own. We
can't count on someone else to grow 'em."
Challenges from concentrating poverty
Asked if as an educator he felt that poverty was, overall, a determinant of success or failure in school, Gorman said this:
"I would not use the word determinant but I would use it as an impact,
greater likelihood. The other thing I'd like to share is: I'm more concerned
about the aggregate impact of poverty.
"Look at the percentage of our schools in CMS that have 75% of the kids on free and reduced lunch: Today it's double what we had in 2000. We're having to work with situations where we have groups of kids who live in poverty who've got this massing of need.
"Instead of saying: Teacher A, you need to work at recess, lunch and after school with your kids who need extra support. OK it might have been three; now it's six. Or it may have been nine; now it's 18. Or it may have been eight; now it's all 16.
"I do think it is having a negative effect on our school system, the fact of that massing of poverty.
"I see it in my experience. I saw it when I was a teacher. I just go back to the mid-'80s when I started teaching second grade and I teached a class -- I teached a class [laughter] sorry -- I taught a class where every child qualified for free or reduced lunch. I've never worked harder in my life trying to make up for some of the challenges.
"It can be things as simple as when Halloween was coming my wife and I making 18 Halloween costumes, to having whole groups of kids that I had to make sure every night I had to send a book home and customize it for them because they just didn't have resources at home. It may not seem like a big deal, but when the kids were out at recess what did I do in the afternoon? Every day, 18 books laid out for kids to take home. OK, I wasn't planning. So I planned after school. So how do you bring those resources to kids? I'm telling you, it just makes the job harder."
Gorman was asked if it was wise to spend more facilities money from bonds on buildings located to serve the current student assignment plan that created concentrartions of poverty. "A lot of people, since we've been out talking to folks, are saying I don't want to pay any more money because I don't think the district is successful. Or the other thing we'll hear more often is, I don' t think my kid will benefit from my money -- and that's that personalization piece. Folks say that. So the question is, what's your next step and what's your choice. And I've heard people say, well, vote against it; send a message. That's one option. But what message? At what cost?
"One of the ways that we have been viable in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools,
in my opinion, is we are a countywide district. We have all of the county
contributing to the needs of all of our kids. If you look at the districts
which are not countywide, but that carve out an urban core, either in real
terms, meaning that just the boundaries of an urban core, or figuratively
meaning that you have bailing out of folks, you see a dramatic decline over
"I want us to be representative of the whole community. If our community has 38% of the kids living in poverty, then I'd like our schools to have 38% of the kids living in poverty. I just want to mirror our community.
"So there' a group of folks who say, I don't want to contribute and support it because we don't mirror the community. There's another group that says, if I don't get more of those resources if more resources don't go into the urban section: I think it's going to take a balancing act because we represent the whole community.
"Just like when we talk about student achievement: We could probably put class sizes at 10 at all of our schools in poverty if we increased them to 38 in our schools that aren't in poverty. What results, for which kids, at what cost? How are we going to balance that? I think people don't like to hear that, but when you've got a finite set of resources we have to balance it. How do we do the best we can balancing?
"If we lose in the fall, I think it will have such a huge detrimental
effect. It will be disastrous. Two's a trend. One's not a trend. Two's a
trend. If we lose this second one, I think you are going to see massive
numbers of folks, in my opinion, giving up on CMS. I sure don't want to live
in an area where people quit caring about schools."
While Gorman acknowledged research suggesting that smaller class size improves achievement, he also noted that highly effective teachers can overcome any impact from crowded classrooms. "My focus is more than anything how do we get the best teachers? The biggest impact on the student is the quality of the teacher more than class size.
In the community, there is "pretty severe disagreement" over policies giving extra resources to high-poverty schools.
"As I go to some parts of the community they say, I'm all for increasing student achievement for kids that live in poverty, but don't do it on the backs of my kids. I don't think there's a community consensus on that. I don't think there's a national consensus on that. We'll always face that. I do think we spend disproportionate resources on our kids that live in poverty and that's the appropriate thing to do."
"We have one of our elementary schools where we spend on average over $9,000 per student. We have another one of our elementary schools where we spend less than $4,000 per student -- $9,000 at a school with great poverty, $4,000 is at a school that has very minimal poverty.
"There are two things you can take from that: Some people will look at that and say, you see, it doesn't work. I choose to take a different attitude, and that is, thank gosh we've got all those resources. Those kids need those, and we're providing those services, and I don't want to find out if the gap would be bigger if we pulled those away....
"We do have limited resources. The board chose and supported initiatives related to 16-to-1 [student-teacher ratio]. We have it at a series of schools. Can we expand that next year? I'm not sure how broad we'd be able to expand it next year if we don't get more support financially.
"Now, that's easy for me to say because I just take the monkey off my back and I put it on the Board of County Commissioners and say, not my problem. So one of the things we'll have to do is we'll have to look internally next year. This year we looked internally for funds to fund initiatives in the strategic plan, like A-Plus, which we didn't ask for new money for.
"We did get $25 million from the commission. That's a pretty darn successful
"I do think that focusing on class size at the elementary level is the most important place to do that. That's where we get the biggest bang for our buck. So next year the goal is to continue what we have," but researchers will check to see if the 16-1 class size made a difference.
"We have never had a true hard cap" on class size, Gorman said. "This coming year will be the first year where we've ever truly monitored it. Now, understand, that can bring about some funky things: What do you do when the 33rd kid enters second grade? Do you get another teacher? Do you now have three classes of 11? Do you make a combination class that has five third-graders and the rest second-graders?... This is going to be a very interesting year as we try to stick to caps.
"Small schools, by the way, make that harder. The bigger the school, you've
got that law of large numbers that gives you that ability to do stuff....
And you know where our small schools are? It's where our kids have the
greatest poverty. Not an excuse; we just have to deal with it."
Recent achievement gains on state test scores leave Gorman "pleased but not satisfied." As for testing gaps among demographic groups: "If you are a child who lives in poverty, or if you are an African American, your chances of being successful in geometry, you have an over 40% achievement gap. Forty percent fewer kids are successful in geometry who are living in poverty or are African American.
are closing the achievement gap after a couple years of being level, we're
closing it again, but we're closing it at a pace that's slow, and we've got
to speed that up."
Recent changes in test standards dropped children from just above the passing mark to just below. "That's not an excuse; it's reality."
Gorman said CMS was responding with Achievement Zone spending, class size reductions, remediation programs and intensive reading programs.
But at the current rate of improvement, "we're talking about 21 years until we close the gap."
Gorman listed four "levers for change" that would hasten the closing of the gap:
-- Student assignment. "There's research that says student assignment can have an impact on student achievement. That's pretty controversial in this town. The history is there; I think everyone knows that."
-- Adding dollars. "How much, what types of resources. We do give different amounts of resources to particular schools. We've tried dollars following students -- and that's been controversial because some folks said, no, it's just the aggregation: When you hit a certain level dollars should follow kids. What if you're a kid that's behind in geometry in a school that overall doesn't have a lot of kids in poverty, should you get more resources for that one child?
-- Staffing levels. "We tried to do that through weighted student staffing. We've got that in place, that we give more to kids based on poverty. Now that makes an assumption that poverty is the determinative of student achievement....
-- Staff quality. "That's been fairly controversial.... We put in reconstitution at four of our high schools last year where we removed staff that we felt was not high quality. That was controversial that we were targeting particular folk. If you look at the data, and the data can show what the average years of experience and graduate degrees, things like that, there's a huge difference between our schools that have high poverty and our schools that don't have high poverty.
"Now, there's not always a direct correlation between those things with student achievement. Just because you're a veteran teacher and you have a master's degree doesn't mean you're a great teacher, but at the same point in time we've sure got some situations in some of our schools where the staff turns over a third of the staff every year.... How do we address that? We've been targeting teams of teachers. We've been giving bonuses. We have the fewest vacancies we've had right now at this time of the year than we've had in recent years....
"The next step we're going to have to tackle is what we want to do with
teacher assignment.... Are we going to do it in a small way, try it out? Are
we going to do it in a big way district-wide?"
Safety and expulsions
Most students guilty of rules infractions will be dealt with in enlarged alternative programs. But about a small group of students, Gorman said, "we need to come forward and say, we can't educate all children with this particular group of kids who are disruptive." The board is scheduled to consider recommendations for expulsion of about eight students.
Recent examples of "egregious behavior" mentioned were bringing an assault
rifle to school and cutting another student with a box cutter, requiring 90
Law enforcement says such students shouldn't be on the streets. "I don't have the answer to that, but I can't bring that student into school and say, please be understanding because we don't want him on the streets."
Gorman said he had visited juvenile detention centers like Gatling and
Stonewall Jackson centers, and some land up in Jail North off Statesville
Road. "I'm not extremely confident that the kids that end up at Stonewall
Jackson get much of an education. It's more of a holding situation."
A new initiative to help parents learn how to support their children in CMS schools will get off the ground in January 2008 and will be fully operational by August of that year, Gorman said.
"We've got some folks in the community who say, that's not your job, stick to your knitting... you shouldn't get into the parent piece. But part of what we're trying to do is say there is a wraparound services piece.
"I talked with one parent who said they didn't go to parent conference because they felt intimidated and didn't know what questions to ask. So we're trying to help by saying, here's five things to ask at your parent-teacher conference -- simple, basic things." The pointers would particularly help parents with a language barrier, Gorman said.
The parent initiative would point parents to existing resources at other
institutions -- at Central Piedmont Community College and community
agencies, he said. "We can just be a conduit." Lynn Roberson heads the
Retaining young teachers
Students assigned to young, highly motivated teachers see large increases in achievement, Gorman said. But Teaching Fellows and Teach For America participants often leave after two years. One such teacher told Gorman that his peers at school laughed when he announced he would take a job teaching. "What kind of world is it when their colleagues laugh at them?"
Gorman said CMS is looking at paying tuition for master's degrees. Another program helps such teachers move into school administration. "That kinda helps, but it kinda doesn't help. It helps because we keep them in education. It doesn't help because we got them out of the classroom."
Exit interviews showed that young teachers left because they missed having a
strong principal leader, or that they didn't sense community support for
schools or, finally, that "their colleagues aren't supportive .. they don't
feel it's a learning environment amongst the teachers."
Reinstituting language instruction
In answer to a question, Gorman said that the plan to begin language instruction next year would cost $8 million.
"Here's a question to propose to you," Gorman said to the audience. "Should that $8 million go to teach foreign language in elementary, or should it be poured into helping kids who have poor achievement in reading? We have a whole lot of folks who are saying to us, for my child to be competitive, he's got to learn a foreign language, and if you're not going to teach it, I'm going to go somewhere else to get it.
"So how do we balance all of this?"
Asked if CMS was reforming its lunchroom fare to boost children's health, Gorman recalled that earlier [federal] policies considered ketchup to be a vegetable.
"First of all, some would question whether this is our job.... How much more can you put on us before we just say, how do I fit it in?
"But with our free and reduced lunch program, our breakfast program, and then our other food programs -- we sell a la carte items and things like that -- we've gotten dramatically more healthy over the last several years. We're doing less and less prepared foods. We're making more on our own. We're offering healthier options. We're offering salad bars.We've taken out the fried chips. We've gone to the baked chips. We're in the process of taking OUT the chips. Next year we won't sell any carbonated beverages during the school day to a child. We'll still do it at concession stands for football game. So we're working our way, and we're getting more and more healthy with it.
"And everyone said if you take it out you will lose the income and you need
the income to support the program. And I can tell you 100% that has turned
out to be not true. We've seen no loss in revenue to run the programs
whatsoever. Kids don't have options. We're their only option. If we bake it
they will eat it.[laughter]. I'm not telling you they eat the whole thing.
But our meals are healthier than they've been in recent years. And that's
not something that just started: That started five, six years ago. The board
has focused on it. And our board has a management oversight workshop coming
up next year related to just food services....
When asked to identify ways in which he has already helped CMS achieve efficiencies, Gorman offered this:
"Well, we've got lot of systems in place which are inherently inefficient. For example, we have a transportation system which is inefficient. It comes down to how do you measure efficiency: We offer more opportunities for kids to go to other schools, to move around to be parts of magnets. So I said it's inefficient, but you know what? It offers kids opportunities. We've got some systems like that....
"Some of the things we've done to look at cost savings, Mo Green has led that for us. Some of the ways we are looking at are facilities. We've made dramatic cuts in our facilities in how we approach that. The last two elementaries we bid were $122 a square foot, where previously it was $144 a square foot. We're working with public private partnerships on how to continue to build facilities. We're looking at how we continue to manage our facilities and how we do performance management contracts for our facilities maintenance and upkeep, which by the way, every time we've done that it's been cut from the budget, unfortunately....
"The biggest way we'll get cost savings is the way people don't want to do
it. And that is, when you're in a business that is 85% people, that is where
you're going to save money.... After our people, the next biggest cost is
utilities and we try to save money, for example, by how we manage. We have a
contract with Honeywell and Trane for how we performance manage our air
conditioning, our HVAC. We target those types of things. We're looking at
some of the things we do with our bus fleet and our auto fleet, that we put
on some devices to save costs. Things as simple as gas caps on our buses.
You wouldn't believe how many gallons evaporate. We've got a whole series of
things, but it's difficult without touching people."
Both ends of the candle
When it was suggested that the superintendent was exhausted, Gorman replied:
"It's not going to change. I'll be tired for the next 10 years. I mean, suck it up and move on. It's not going to change. I'm trying to bring more balance to my life, and I'm struggling with that."
Keeping test scores in context
Reminded that his own daughter's view was that when year-end testing was over that the school year had effectively ended, Gorman replied:
"We're all struggling with this. EOCs [end-of-course tests] and EOGs [end-of-grade tests] rule our lives, so much to the point that I actually look at my calendar, and for planning summer vacation I match up for when EOC and EOG results come out so I'm not gone when they come out.... It's on everyone's shoulders and I don't think it's going to change. Now we have the big six tests in high school. You know our freshman class this year has to pass the EOC in those areas or they just don't graduate. It's true high-stakes testing.
"Then the other call is for greater enforcement of gateways at [grades] 3 and 5 and 8, meaning that if you don't pass at third, fifth and eighth grade that you don't go on to the next grade. And that seems to be the big push that's coming.
"We're trying to de-escalate it but we've just failed.
"And the other piece that comes to it is, we've talked about, and here I'm
saying we're trying to work on stuff but I'm creating another problem: We
talked about moving teachers to schools where kids need the help the most.
And someone said, yeah, but just don't move teachers based on experience:
Move the best teachers. I said, OK, how do you measure the best teachers?
They said, well, you look at what the kids' EOC or EOG was the year before,
and you look at that year, and look at the value the teacher added. So we're
kind of right back into it. I guess what I'm saying is I don't have an
answer for that. We're failing."
A 1990s policy pledged "equity" for all students. When asked about a recent staff report that used the word "adequacy," not equity, Gorman said the school board would discuss the policy issues in mid-August.
While the board endorsed -- but did not adopt -- an earlier definition of
equity, Gorman said "I don' think we have agreement" on what equity
requires. Example: Does equity require that all children have access to
pre-kindergarten, or does equity mean that CMS concentrate its resources on
preschoolers likely to arrive at kindergarten without required pre-reading
'I've got to have help'
A member of the audience challenged Gorman to tell groups outside CMS -- the
county commissioners, City Council and others -- what help CMS needs so
children's home and nutrition environment improves so they'll be better
prepared to learn. Gorman's response:
"In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges is that I'm looked upon to be responsible for that. I'll tell you, it's not, I've got a, I spend a hugely disproportionate amount of time looking outward rather than inward. And I need to be able to spend more time looking inward.
"I don't know: The community outrage, the community just stand up and demand some of these things. Some of the things we've spent time on this year, for example law enforcement, just engaging with law enforcement. The fact that we have better information-sharing now, that we know what our kids are doing and where they're doing it. The work we've done to expand afterschool programs, because if you look at the criminal activity, you all know... the greatest opportunity for, when do more crimes occur than any other time? Between 2:30 and 4:30. A lot of it is petty juvenile stuff that sucks up a lot of law enforcement time....
"We've worked with the county on our suspension alternative programs: They are in county recreation facilities that aren't used during the day. We need more things like that. As far as the nutrition pieces, I guess what I'm saying is I can't do that. I can't do it all. I've got to have help.
"I go to the county commission in the evenings. I don't know if you've ever seen them. Frankly, every time I go it's an inquisition.
"I get called up in front, and I stand there and get grilled."
"Maybe you need more of us to go with you," said Forum presider Sarah Stevenson, who served on the school board from 1980 to 1988.
"And not just you," Gorman replied. "I need everyone, I mean from every
community, because there are certain communities that come and speak, and
others that are silent.
"What are our expectations for our kids? An example I'll give is:
"Someone who lives on my block said to me, well, what do you think I should do with the facilities [the November bond issue]. And I said vote yes. He said I don't have kids in school so I quit paying attention. And I just think we have a fair bit of that."
When the questioner observed that it was county and city policies that led
to the concentration of poverty by neighborhoods that is now reflected in
schools, Gorman replied: "That's a good point. At the same time I've got to
balance it with some people who, every time I bring something up like that,
say that's another excuse for CMS."
The Forum welcomes all persons to its meetings beginning at 8 a.m. most Tuesdays of the year
at the West Charlotte Recreation Center, 2222 Kendall Drive, Charlotte, NC
down the hill from West Charlotte High School.