The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted to adopt proposed changes to more than 60 of the district’s 178 schools following a five-month comprehensive review of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the midst of a severe funding shortage.

The most contentious battle came from supporters of Waddell High School who at least wanted to delay the vote with the hopes that their school would be saved. The board rejected the proposal to delay the vote, prompting a chant of “No justice no peace” from some in the audience. One woman was arrested as a result.

The board later voted for most of the changes and closings to the 60 schools as recommended by staff. This means Waddell students would be shifted to Harding, and Smith Academy would take the Waddell building.

“We made painful decisions to close and consolidate schools and move children, teachers and staff based on whether schools were underperforming, underutilized or both – with the goal of putting affected students in better-performing, better-utilized schools and cutting buildings first before teachers and programs,” said Eric C. Davis, chairperson of the Board of Education. “It was crucial to make decisions now so families, teachers and staff throughout the system would have time to make plans for the school year ahead. We believe the changes being made will give children in this community the best education possible during these trying times.”

The audience was so boisterous during the meeting that at one point when Board member Joe White fired back. From WFAE:

“Folks, we are in a different ballgame from what we’ve ever been in before financially and it is not going to get… ” began White.

The crowd started grumbling.

“Folks I was pretty nice,” scolded White. “I didn’t yell out when any of you were talking. No wonder we have kids that don’t know how to behave.”

Most changes will take effect in the 2011-2012 school year. They are expected to save nearly $10 million in the first two years and more than $6 million every year thereafter, the equivalent of preserving 200 teacher jobs in the first two years and 120 teacher jobs every year after that.
The changes include closing 11 school buildings; consolidating students and programs at five schools; relocating two programs; expanding eight schools to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and one to K-12; expanding one school to grades six through 12; adjusting boundaries for 13 schools; providing targeted assistance to nearly 30 schools and creating two new home schools and two new magnet programs.
The Board made changes to two recommendations presented by staff. The Board voted to move Villa Heights Academic Center to the Irwin Avenue IB Elementary building, which had been recommended for use as an administrative site. Lincoln Heights Elementary will close and students who attend it as a home school will be reassigned to Bruns and Ashley Park elementary schools; Lincoln IB students may apply to other programs or attend their home schools. The Board also altered the staff proposal for changes at three high schools, voting to move the math and science magnet program at Harding University High to Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, creating a new home area for Harding, moving Smith Academy of International Languages to E.E. Waddell High and merging Waddell high school students into other schools.

The district expects to have to cut $50 million to $100 million from its budget for the 2011-2012 year, following two consecutive years of budget reductions and redirections totaling nearly $186 million.
“These were tough but necessary decisions,” said Peter C. Gorman, superintendent. “Unfortunately, we will still have to plan for personnel and program cuts in the 2011-2012 budget, but we hope these decisions will reduce those cuts. CMS will continue to work with the community and our families so that all students can succeed.”