CMS School Board member not convinced school improvement plans will work

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board approved improvement plans for several struggling schools at its Tuesday night's board meeting.

The State mandates a plan be submitted for schools that have been low performing for two consecutive years.

Board Member Ericka Ellis-Stewart voted against the plan because she believes the recommendations weren't strong enough.  She says she wants schools to succeed but argues the plans presented are no-brainers.

She says what was recommended should already be happening in the classrooms and by now, the district should be doing them well.

"It is frustrating and I kind of want people to maybe go back to the drawing board and see what are some things we can do that is innovative - doesn't necessarily have to be brand new, shiny, what's the trend of the day, but what are the things that are going to be solidly effective," Ellis-Stewart said.

The board will present the improvement plans to the State Board of Education for their approval on Monday. Once the State Board approves the plans, they will be made public.

CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox says the plans call for principals at the low performing schools to have coaches. Additionally, there will be an all hands-on deck mentality at those schools.

He also says schools will tighten up the way CMS delivers instruction and curriculum. He believes the district may have missed the mark through the years when it came to teaching students.

"I am saying that perhaps there was a different philosophy in terms of how instruction is going to be delivered. This is not something we are going to achieve overnight, but it is something that we have begun in earnest," the superintendent said.

Ellis-Stewart is not convinced and told the superintendent he will have to show her that the plans work.

"If you are doing the same thing that you've done previously, maybe just tightening up a little bit - how much change are you actually going to see," Ellis-Stewart said.

Wilcox stands by the improvement plans and admits he has his work cut out for him.

"It's not easy work. If it were easy work - we wouldn't be having this conversation. The fact is it's very difficult and it's not something that I think I am going to be sitting here a year from tonight saying we've won the war. I think what I am going to say is we're continuing down the path. We will see that incremental improvement in our scores," the superintendent said.

Ellis-Stewart is concerned about seeing a drop in test scores. She is also weary telling parents the district is working on the academic problem and it never gets fixed.

"My challenge is if children are consistently behind, there's growth they may have, but they never actually get up to grade level in proficient and above - we are not serving them well," Ellis-Stewart said.

If the struggling schools show no signs of improvement by next year, the CMS superintendent does have options when it comes to handling school leadership to make academic achievement happen.

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