May 25, 2017 - News

Student assignment is over. There were winners and losers. What comes next?


Brittany Stone cms-school-board-meeting cover

Whew. With a final vote in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the whirlwind Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools student assignment process came to a close.

The whole process happened fast — about four weeks from initial proposal to the final vote. That period was marked by intense lobbying from neighborhood groups and parents. Some areas got what they were asking for, and some didn’t.

Most of the battles come down to switching neighborhoods between schools with different letter grades from the state, which are based on the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level on standardized tests and how quickly they’re improving. Letter grades closely correlate with the percentage of low-income students attending.

Though dozens of parents spoke their mind and emotions ran high even among school board members, there were ultimately few surprises when the final votes were taken. No changes were made at the dais.

You can see all the proposals here. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the more controversial decisions.

Sedgefield and Montclaire were the big winners.

Sedgefield was already excited about the prospect of pairing their elementary school with Dilworth Elementary into a shared attendance zone. This pairing was preserved despite the protestations of a number of Dilworth families.

[Agenda story: Dilworth, Cotswold elementary schools to be “paired” with low-income schools under CMS proposal]

On top of that, Sedgefield’s middle school — which only a year ago received a failing grade from the state — will also be dramatically strengthened.

CMS came around to the “Two Great Middle Schools” plan that re-divided south Charlotte between Sedgefield and A.G Middle to create socioeconomic diversity in each. Superintendent Ann Clark had originally called the plan unrealistic … but here we are. I’ve previously praised this plan and will continue to do so.

After years of lobbying, the Montclaire neighborhood was finally moved from Harding High (which is 8 miles away) to Myers Park High (3.5 miles away). Harding has a D grade from the state and Myers Park has a B.

The Mad Montclaire account has already changed its Twitter handle to Happy Montclaire.

These winners were just from the revisions after the original proposal. The Madison Park neighborhood also got what they wanted in this plan (from Harding to Myers Park High), along with Huntingtowne Farms (Harding to South Meck High).

Chantilly was the most blatant snub.


One of the more controversial changes was to move the Oakhurst and Chantilly neighborhoods from Myers Park High or East Meck High (both B grades) to Garinger High (D grade).

The Chantilly neighborhood association had lobbied for several alternative options that would keep their neighborhood where it was. The school board ultimately voted to stick with the plan, and parents are extremely upset.

You could also say that the Eastover neighborhood is a loser in this decision — but only because the changes were sprung on them at the last second, without giving them a chance to respond or even really digest them. They’ll be going to the revamped Sedgefield Middle instead of A.G. Middle.

The people south of Fairview Road who were assigned to Selwyn Elementary also did not get their wish to remain there. They will move to Sharon Elementary (despite producing a dramatic video).

Morehead STEM was also combined with Nathaniel Alexander Elementary, which some Morehead parents weren’t happy about.

And of course, the dozens of high-poverty schools that didn’t receive any relief were perhaps the biggest losers in this student assignment plan.

Here are the next three things to watch. All of them are tied to Wednesday’s vote.

School bond campaign. CMS has already started a public campaign to rally support for more than $900 million bond package that would build or renovate campuses across the county — including 10 new schools. To get the money, the school district will have to cross a few hurdles. The Mecklenburg County commissioners must vote to put the package on the ballot, and voters would have to approve it in November. The bond vote could end up being a referendum on how happy people are with CMS, and this student assignment plan is certainly inflaming passions.

November elections. Also on the ballot will be the six school board members who run in districts (as opposed to the three at-large members of the board). This student assignment plan is a ready-made platform for challengers, who will certainly try to coalesce the anti-assignment plan vote.

Will CMS build on these changes? For people who were hoping that this student assignment plan would break up concentrations of poverty in Charlotte schools, the final vote Wednesday was something of a disappointment. The general consensus is that the plan is a tiny step in the right direction, but far from enough.

Typically, CMS takes a look at boundaries every six years, but there’s nothing magical about this number. The board can do whatever they want. Expect to hear a rallying cry: We can’t wait six more years for more progress.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Charlotte stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more