What the Charlotte Hornets just accidentally taught me about public schools

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I left the school board meeting last week feeling slightly dejected and uninspired.

Then the other day, I was reading about how Michael Jordan and the Hornets have been eyeing the international stage for a while in hopes to gain exposure and clout for the franchise. The trouble is – if you screw it up, everyone’s watching. But if you play it too safe, people will stop watching. But Jordan’s reasoning? “We want to grow. […] We need to provide these opportunities to our team.”

My guess is that Jordan knows that a team’s identity – and swagger – is forged in those moments of big opportunity when everyone’s watching.

In a lot of ways, this is the story of Charlotte—up and coming, new and better things on the horizon, making moves toward a bigger spotlight.

And that’s when it hit me.

Sometimes, CMS plays it too safe.

As a result of an effectiveness study conducted last spring—and as a bit of a warm up for student assignment—CMS unveiled new plans on Tuesday night for its portfolio of magnet schools.

The goals are to increase accessibility through better transportation and marketing, reduce achievement gaps, and get school diversity to reflect city diversity.

In particular, the magnet presentation called out partial magnets as a bit of a trouble spot, admitting that achievement gaps are still of particular concern in those programs.

Here are a few highlights of the proposed magnet changes:

  • Move the existing World Language magnet at West Meck to North Meck.
  • Provide an additional track of study for students at Harding by sharing Career & Technical Education (CTE) facilities with nearby Phillip O. Berry.
  • Provide an additional program of study at Marie G. Davis.
  • Expand the Montessori program to include grades 9-12. (Someday)
  • Create a partial magnet at Billingsville — theme and timing yet unknown.

I don’t know; those are all steps in the right direction. But I still think the district has missed an opportunity.

Walking into the Government Center on Tuesday, the place was abuzz with conflicting opinions and agendas as much as it was with poster board and coordinating T-shirts. But ultimately, everyone there’s rooting for CMS to provide a first-rate education countywide.

Even still, turmoil is brewing.

Growing angst about the search and selection of a permanent superintendent is not the ideal way to head into reassignment, one of the most divisive issues in public education. And it seemed, anyway, that sexy magnet plans could’ve been an opportunity to begin building some positive momentum. Some excitement.

Ever the optimist, I was kind of hoping to leave the Government Center a few nights ago with a reminder that good things are happening – growing – in CMS. And by extension, a reminder that CMS is committed to a promise of more good things to come.

But with an underwhelming suite of magnet commitments as the kick off to this quagmire, I walked away instead wondering: What’s missing? And I think our school district should take a page from the Hornets’ playbook.

What CMS needs is a little more swagger. To not always play it so safe, and to use the time and the tools we have right now to make some bold moves while everyone’s watching.

(By the way, the Hornets are 6-0 this preseason and swept the Clippers in China.)

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Brittany Stone
Linguist. Fan of bookstore smells, hip hop, my backpack, and democracy. Freelance thinker. Beyoncé enthusiast.