Published Online: February 27, 2007
Published in Print: February 28, 2007, as Charlotte District to Subdivide

District Dossier

Charlotte District to Subdivide

N.C. system seeking to be more responsive.

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Hoping to make a big system feel more intimate, leaders of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools are working to divide the district into smaller parts.

Under the plan, which Superintendent Peter Gorman unveiled this month, the 132,000 student district will be reorganized into seven zones, each with its own administration, by next fall.

Joel Ritchie, a former principal tapped to help craft the plan, said the aim is to render the district more responsive to local conditions. The cost of the reorganization is estimated at $8 million, and the board still must approve the budget and personnel for the plan.

“What we teach, and the standards, will not change,” he said. “But we know our community is very diverse and very different in terms of needs, so we’re trying to allow that flexibility in how we get there.”

Six of the new “learning communities” will be drawn geographically. The seventh, the “achievement zone,” will include the district’s lowest-performing schools.

Each is to have its own offices—staffed by an area superintendent and about nine other people—in the region it serves. The achievement zone is to have a larger staff.

Mr. Ritchie said the makeup of the learning communities’ offices will vary according to the particular challenges facing the schools within their zones. An area with high numbers of English-language learners, for instance, may have more specialists in that area.

Plans call for creating the seven offices in the next few months. In the meantime, the district is polling educators and parents in each proposed zone on what they feel they most need.

The new administrative structure replaces a long-standing arrangement in which districtwide administrators for elementary, middle, and high schools have overseen schools at those levels from the central office.

It also echoes calls for decentralization in a report issued by a citizens’ task force in late 2005 that offered ways to address the rapid growth, increasing diversity, and public dissatisfaction in the school district. ("Major Change Eyed for Charlotte, N.C., Schools," Jan. 4, 2006.)

Karen Fesperman, a Charlotte parent who served on the task force, said she believes the public could feel better served under the plan.

“Having more administrative functions housed geographically closer to our part of the county will be a help,” she said. “There are schools that are a good 45 minutes from the central office.”

Vol. 26, Issue 25, Page 5

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