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VOL. 126 | NO. 241 | Monday, December 12, 2011

Charlotte Supt. to Talk Schools Merger

By Bill Dries

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The schools consolidation planning commission will talk Monday, Dec. 12, with the former superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system in North Carolina.

Peter Gorman resigned as superintendent of the consolidated school system in August to become part of the new education division of News Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s media company.

The meeting at Christian Brothers University’s Thomas Center begins at 4:30 p.m.

Some on the planning commission as well as the countywide school board have been interested in the consolidated Charlotte school system because of its similarities to the coming consolidated county school system that starts with the 2013-2014 school year.

Charlotte and Mecklenberg County Schools consolidated in 1960 a year after city and county voters there approved the consolidation.

Today, the school system has more than 141,100 students in 159 schools.

Gorman became superintendent of the school system in 2006 and made his mark there and in education-reform circles with a data-driven approach to both student achievement as well as teacher evaluation.

It is that kind of education reform that state education officials as well as leaders of both of Shelby County’s public school systems have been pursuing, albeit with approaches and views that vary on specific methods.

Gorman’s approach included a controversial “strategic staffing” campaign, which offered bonuses for teachers who volunteered to go to low-performing schools and also moved high-performing principals to the schools.

Meanwhile, this is the first full week on the job for the consulting firm hired by the planning commission.

The commission approved the contract with Boston Consulting Group through the nonprofit Shelby County Schools Education Foundation last week in a unanimous voice vote.

Because the planning commission does not have the authority to enter into contracts, the foundation agreed to, in effect, carry the $1.7 million contract for the commission.

The fee is to be paid by private donors including nonprofit groups as part of the planning commission’s $2.3 million budget.

The foundation is in no way involved with what the consultant does nor is it responsible for paying the fee, which includes all work and expenses of the consulting group that has worked in other education reform efforts including with the reformed New Orleans school system in 2008.

Planning commission chairwoman Barbara Prescott said the consultants’ first action will likely be to interview the commission members one on one to begin building a database BCG has assembled in its past work with other school systems.

Commissioner Christine Richards, an attorney who helped draft the agreement, said the consultants’ work will have four phases. The organizational phase, which begins immediately, should be completed next month.

The development of a draft plan working with the commission is due by April with any refinements to the plan by August. The final proposal would be submitted to the countywide school board and state education officials for their approval a year from now.

The planning commission budget is made up of $2 million from private donors and foundations and $100,000 set aside in Shelby County government’s budget. The remaining $200,000 is an estimate of in-kind services county government has provided to the commission in the way of personnel including county attorneys.

Prescott said some of the donors requested anonymity. Those that didn’t and have either pledged or already contributed money are FedEx Corp., First Tennessee Bank Foundation, AutoZone Inc., Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the Community Foundation.

In addition to money, the Community Foundation is also providing BCG office space at its headquarters.

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