Monday, November 8, 2010

Trent Merchant's e-mail on CMS closure vote

Trent Merchant

On Sunday evening, CMS board member Trent Merchant sent an e-mail to his fellow board members urging them to "take no action on the Waddell-Harding-Smith-Berry-South Meck piece of the staff recommendation and the board alternative that has been assembled."

He says he would rather delay the decision until next spring for the 2012-13 school year. Board Chair Eric Davis, however, reiterated Sunday night that he intends to go through with the vote on Tuesday.

Read Merchant's e-mail below:

From: Trent Merchant
Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 9:49 PM
To: Eric C. Davis; Tom Tate; Joyce Waddell; Rhonda Lennon; 'Richard McElrath'; Joe White; Kaye Mcgarry; Tim Morgan
Subject: Waddell-Harding-Smith-Berry-South Meck


I apologize for communicating via email, but our time is running short, and having met with, spoken with, or traded messages with all of you individually over the last week, I thought that for the sake of consistency and simplicity it might be best to communicate with the entire board at once.

On Tuesday night, I would like for us to pull and then take no action on the Waddell-Harding-Smith-Berry-South Meck piece of the staff recommendation and the board alternative that has been assembled. I would like for us to do this in a way that is pro-active, rather than as a consequence of simply voting down the staff rec or the board alternative.

I had tried for several days to push for delay of a month to consider a solution that would pull in 2 elementary zones that had not previously been in the mix, with the reasoning that more pieces = more flexibility and better options. But on our Nov 9 agenda, we will approve Policy JCA, which captures the Guiding Principles, which include a notification date of Nov 15 for student assignment changes, thanks in part to my own shortsighted advocacy in the face of the Superintendent's warning that a hard date was a bad idea. I would personally be willing to be beaten up for breaking the rules, because my own moral compass says that if we reach an outcome that is better for the most students, then the correct play for us as leaders is to pick results over process. But the public is twisting in the wind and I do not believe that a compressed and tense month of debate over 11th-hour options (over Thanksgiving) would inspire public trust.

And so, I hope that we will instead withdraw the Waddell-Harding-Smith-Berry-South Meck piece, expand the geography under consideration, and aim to make a decision in the Spring/Summer 2011 for the 2012-2013 school year. My rationale follows:

FINANCIAL - Both the staff recommendation and the board alternative project approximately $550,000 net savings in Year 1. However, the board alternative will cause the district to lose more than $1.2 million (1/3 of the 3 year $3.7 million School Improvement Grant for Waddell) in that same year, for a minimum net COST of over $650,000. In fairness, if we close Waddell, the net savings could be spent throughout the district, while the SIG money must be spent at Waddell, but with a graduation rate of 52%, aren't those the students who need the additional resources the most?

And if the over-arching problem that must be solved is how to generate as much cost-savings as possible, why would we make a decision that costs more, while angering the community, causing disruption, and taking away resources from students with the greatest needs?

OPERATIONAL - transportation and not having to do this again next year all over again: - The decision in question will touch 3 magnets. We have all acknowledged that transportation will be an area of operations that is discussed early in the budget process. It does not seem like the correct decision-making hierarchy to determine the placement of magnets, hold the magnet lottery, THEN make decisions on transportation. Last year our hand was forced. This year we know that we may have to make adjustments. We should behave accordingly.

In a time that we have framed as financial crisis, how do we save face if we bus students from South Blvd and Sharon Lakes up to Harding? It's 12 miles. For a home school. See for yourself at

We are going to eliminate a transportation zone. We need to take a hard look at West Charlotte IB, which has fewer than 100 students and has produced no recent graduates. The math/science program at Harding has 100 fewer freshmen than seniors this year. But the middle school level math/science program at Morehead is just getting going. etc, etc... there are too many things in flux to make an informed decision with predictable outcomes.

ACADEMIC: The board alternative would dismantle the culture of success at Harding, carve out half of its students, drop in 80% of a school with a 52% graduation rate and 79% EDS, and add the most challenged pieces of West Meck - Reid Park (95% EDS), Westerly Hills (94% EDS), and Barringer (69% EDS at a partial magnet - the home zone EDS will be higher).

Do any of you honestly believe that is a recipe for success?

And when we have failing schools, inevitably they cost us more - but now we have no resources. In fact, the board alternative would eliminate some of the resources currently available by killing the SIG grant at Waddell.

A COMBINATION OF EQUITY AND HOME PROXIMITY - they are not always at odds: Find a compass. Stick the point in Waddell HS. Stick the pencil at Harding. Draw a circle. Interesting how the area is much larger than the geographic area that we have discussed. Notice that there are neighborhoods much closer to Myers Park or Olympic than they are to Harding. But there's no room at those schools, right? Well, what if you could MAKE room by moving certain pieces out of Myers Park and Olympic to other schools. What we added West Charlotte to the mix, especially if IB goes away there? What if the pieces you considered moving out could also go to high schools closer to home, creating more compact boundaries and fewer bus miles? Would you consider making those decisions? Or would you fall prey to the notion that "we have to do something," even if it condemns already challenged students to even more challenged learning situations?

I believe that this is not a time for condemnation, but for mercy and grace, and I think we can make those decisions in a way that are more stable and predictable for families over time, and more economically viable for the school district.

I understand that I have ignored recurring savings in this piece. But our current financial situation and 2014 graduation goals trump long range planning needs at this point. We need to survive financially, succeed academically, and live to fight another day. On this particular item, neither the staff rec nor the board alternative help us to accomplish any of those objectives.

Thanks for your consideration, and thanks for your hard work over the past months,

Trent Merchant
CMS Board of Education, At Large


Anonymous said...

Mr. Merchant's save face is straight out of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail playbook. However the white stallion is missing and John Cleese does a better impression of John Cleese.

Anonymous said...

Once again Trent Merchant, comes in at the 9th hour with a complete about face. After being disrespectful with the public during a recent hearing; he muddies up the waters by adding schools and boundaries not even in the discussion. Why now? Who truly knows, it is definitely not for students. He has raised the anxiety of other schools, students and teachers who felt they were "safe". Only for a political purpose....Shame, Shame on you Mr. Merchant!
To the board, yours is a tough decision, please realize the human factor. We're in this mess because of the rush run schools like a business. For some aspects this might be true, but at the school level it's all about children...the total child. A well rounded education addresses social, emotional, physical and academic needs. Students enter school at various stages of development. No two students are alike, but yet we continue to educate them with a one shoe fits all mentality. All the wonderful charter schools, private schools and teacher programs (TFFA) believe in this fundamental truth of educating the total child and allow the school based leaders and staff to design programs, practices and strategies to meet the unique needs of their population. Unlike CMS Schools they don't have a top down mentality that mandates programs, practices and strategies that must be implemented in all schools. Along with such mandates come tons and tons of paperwork that instead of helping those at the school level it handcuffs them to being compliant with the needs of central office and not those of students. When asked why so much much paperwork from so many departments, one note CMS administrator said that everyone has to show that there job is needed in other words "job security"! Far to often CMS's right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Departments compete for position by demanding completion of forms, programs, paperwork and attendance at meetings that are in conflict with other departments. Rather than working together for the common good each department head looking out for their own job security or building their own resume! Shame! Shame!
To the board,give every school freedom and flexibility and allow them to create a true 5 year School Improvement Plan that lasts for 5 years and not what currently happens now....every year the 5 year plan is changed(new form and content requirements). Stop focusing on adult issues ! Put your treasure where your priority is....let's put kids first!

Larry said...

Parlaying his seat to another seat.

This guy is a consummate politician and that is not a compliment.

Anonymous said...

actually the better political move would be to leave the thing alone, not to throw it open to affect more people.

wiley said...

I brought up the same transportation issues at the West Meck community meeting during the breakout session and suggested that they look at neighborhood transportation drop points just as they did for magnets.

I also briefly spoke to Mr. Merchant and asked why bonds were pushed and approved for schools to be built just a couple of years ago when CMS stated they were "bursting at the seams", only to now have many schools underutilized with thousands more students?

In another article on the Observer this morning, Mayor Fixxit wants to give CMS taxing authority.

This is a perfect example of why they should never have that ability.

Anonymous said...

Typical political maneuvering. Why did we not realize there was a problem earlier? Why did we not realize that there were certain segments of town being left out of the discussion?

Larry said...

Someone said the better move is to stay away or hide in the crowd.

Just look at the last election. Who got back in. I mean the same people who put us in this mess.

So If I were running for office I would pander to that group who votes for that type of person and does so in large numbers based on what they are told, and that is just what they do just about every election.

Democrats do have a unique advantage over people and will until people actually stop and say just who is getting paid off, the people or the leaders of the people?

Try being an Independent for a while. We Independents don't give our vote until we reach the voting booth and make them work for it, and that is the only way to make our City, County, State and Country better.

Anonymous said...

CMS needs to be methodical. However, it is like a an organization that is ADHD.

Meanwhile, Merchant is dangerously political. He should get on the board at Charlotte Country Day, where he went to school and learned about how the world works.

Nameless said...

I have been disappointed with Mr. Merchant. When I voted for him, he sounded like he would do what was needed. Instead he has surrendered himself to being PC and consistently done nothing meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Sell both Harding and Waddell and keep Smith as is and pick a point in the exact middle and call it Harding-Waddell High School.

The exact center point would be perfectl at the Billy Graham and Tyvola Road exchange interection. Take the proceeds and build the new combined HS and and forget it.

Adrian DeVore said...


Anonymous said...

My mother always told me if I have nothing nice to say than I should say nothing at all.

I have nothing to say about Trent Merchant. Absolutely nothing. Nope, I have nothing to say about Mr. Merchant. Nothing at all. Not a thing. No, I have nothing to say about Trent Merchant. No, no, no.

Anonymous said...

Mr, Merchant's compass idea is good and should be applied to all schools across the entire district. Draw a circle around each school, modify slightly as needed, and be finished. Essentially he is setting the stage for a district wide boundary revision. It is clearly what is needed.

Anonymous said...

These 2 high schools dont pay enough taxes to buy a soda pop and when you take off for all the freebie free lunches and welfare foodstamps etc they in the hole millions.

Why even quibble with these bums? Gorman needs to just do what hes got to do and call the cops for trespassing when they protest whine bitch and cry in front his 3 million home fashionable country club elite residential area. Put up invisible electric fences and stay off property signs.

Anonymous said...

hire some armed rent-a-cops and a few rot guard dogs?

Anonymous said...

Thats right. Nobody owes you jack. Be thankful for what you got and shut the fk up. Its all free anyway.

Anonymous said...

William Devaughn 1971 - Good song.

Anonymous said...

I would not be surprised if CMS decides to re-align the boundaries of ALL schools for the 2012-2013 year. They do not have the time this year to do it - they still have to change transportation - move bell schedules and get all of CMS to a 4 bus-run day (and maybe extend shuttle buses to partial magnets and do away with the 5-mile radius). But next year - I would not be surprised. Might as well change all boundaries at once - then no one is happy and everyone is mad at one time.

Anonymous said...

As long as ole Trent's district and the Myers Park crowd is okay with the ultimate outcome, things will be just fine. Trent is one arrogant and narcissitic political wannabe. Nothing like more chaos, dissension, and imcompetence to go along with reverse racism....

Anonymous said...

Restructure the whole boundary lines, let's cause more change for all the chillin's, the smart ones, not so smart ones, the poor and the rich ones, even the yellow, black & white ones. Let's lower the bar evenly for all God's creatures to make it fair for all.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @4:42:

Trent Merchant is not welcome at Myers Park after the bull-spit he pulled last year. Do NOT use his name and MP in the same sentence or bad things will happen to you. I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I think the high schools should be taken off completely! Smith is not grateful that they would have been receiving a wonderful school(Harding) for a k-8 school. Even though Harding says "they don't have they same blood type as Waddell" I bet they would be happy to have excellent athletic facilities and a nice new school.

Anonymous said...

I think the high schools should be taken off completely! Smith is not grateful that they would have been receiving a wonderful school(Harding) for a k-8 school. Even though Harding says "they don't have they same blood type as Waddell" I bet they would be happy to have excellent athletic facilities and a nice new school.

Anonymous said...

Smith would be very grateful for any facility - but expecting parents (especially parents of elementary students) to drive their kids to a school 10 miles away from the current school location is a lot to ask for. And as we all know, buses are not an option in most cases. Smith parents are very sensitive to what a change in HS location would mean for Waddell HS students - but please let's also remember that the majority of Smith elementary students is currently housed in trailers because Smith is at 154% occupancy. Now while I try to put myself in the position of a Waddell HS parent to understand and empathize, I am also asking Waddell HS parents to put themselves in the position of a Smith elementary student parent.

Reverend Larry James said...

My feeling is that Mr. Merchant has taken a moment to breathe in a rush to judgement environment that is insisting on a quick fix solution to ameliorate a mega situation.

In my opinion, the first mistake by the the Board and Superintendent in attempting to address a vital situation that affects the lives of so many in myriad ways is that the key players for brainstorming solutions have been totally ignored in this process.

We have Principals, Assistants, Advisors, Academic Facilitators, Master Educators, Engineers,parents,and genius level students in CMS who could be involved in finding solutions to all the woes facing this system. Think about it! Billions of dollars have been invested in some of the brightest minds on earth, and they are completly ignored in this issue.

I made a suggestion to Mr. Eric Davis some months ago to consider establishing "Think Tank Committees" to include personnel from the bottom up approach. These committees could be responsible for tackling every issue facing the district(i.e. transportation, financial, logistics,resource distribution, etc.) Why ignore an intellectual base as vast as the one right under your nose? Don't wait until you've made decisions about actions you are going to take before you invite input from those who will be affected. That is a backward approach that will most often only reap utter chaos.

You,CMS Board, seem bent and determined to tackle every issue all by yourselves, seemingly most often from an uninformed postion of what affects the whole and the devastating results that follow.

I'm not suggesting that the dilemma you face is not a tremendous one. On the contrary, it is massive. I am convinced that there are viable solutions without having to arbitrarily and hurriedly close schools. Why not take a breath as Mr. Merchant has done?

I don't know what prompted Mr. Merchant to rethink the position that has been taken by the Board and Superintendent. Some seem to attribute his actions to be politically motivated, which is possible. In the final analysis, what makes sense is that he makes sense, politically motivated or otherwise.

My hope and prayer is that what he presents does not fall on deaf ears. There is far more at stake than buildings and utilities. We are talking about the lives of real people!

Anonymous said...

"Reverend Larry James said...
My feeling is that Mr. Merchant has taken a moment to breathe in a rush to judgement environment that is insisting on a quick fix solution to ameliorate a mega situation."

What a joke. Always beware of anyone who addresses themself as a "REV". How much taxes to you pay for all these school bills Mr REV? You think money grows on trees too and you are owed everything free? Dont answer. We already know.

Reverend Larry James said...

Dear Mr./Ms.Anonymous:

I respect your right and willingness to comment and criticize my opinion. It's a healthy freedom that we possess.

I am also very aware that there are many persons who bear the name of Larry James. It is by choice that I make known who I am rather than state my opinion in anonymity. Bye the bye, I do pay a significant amount in taxes!

May the peace of God be yours today and forever.

Anonymous said...
Definition of REVEREND ... good, moral, noble, righteous " I met a reverend good man "

Mark 10:17-22.

As Jesus went on his way a man fell on his knees. "Good Master" ... "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do ye call me good?" Jesus answered. "there is no one good on this entire earth except The Father alone in heaven.

"You know the commandments, Do not murder, commit adultery, commit sodomy, steal, give false testimony, defraud, and honor thy father and mother ..."

It is blasphemic sin to call yourself reverend or good. Sell all you own as you must be wealthy paying so much in taxations and give to the poor and follow your Messiah.

Larry James

Anonymous said...

There was no decision the CMS board could have made with any degree of credibility and trust. They created a huge divide in the community and definitely under estimated the negative response from the public. Here is my question. What is the precedence for this type of action? Did any civil rights violations occur that are based in law? Were specific communities targeted then disguised as decision driven by challenging economic times? How does that wash with the US Dept of Civil Rights if one race is impacted disproportionably? What do the legal minds think that have been following this debacle created by the board?

Anonymous said...

Who cares how anything washes with those liberal racists in the US Dept of unCivil Rights? Their days are numbered anyway like all other wasteful worthless govt agencies. Big changes on the way.

Anonymous said...

Trent Merchant is so quick to want to throw more challenged schools( West Charlotte) under the bus while he was quick to pull Myers Park Traditional off the list. He is such a hypocrite!
He voted on the IB standards for rating the schools programs.

Remember this article Trent-you side stepping,back-sliding double man ?!

CMS Magnet-Sept. 23 by Raible
CMS Magnet Schools 2009‐2010
In the last couple of weeks, CMS rolled out two lists of schools under scrutiny; all total, about 60 of the district's 170-plus schools are on those lists. Mike Raible, the CMS planner who's leading the study, was getting me up to speed when he dropped the intriguing tidbit about burnishing reputations.

I had raised an eyebrow at the notion that West Charlotte's International Baccalaureate program was one of only nine CMS magnets -- and the only high-school IB program -- that met all the school board's new standards for academic accomplishment. (Read the magnet report here.) I hadn't crunched any recent data, but it's the smallest of CMS's IB magnets, located in a high-poverty school that has struggled to attract top students and teachers.

Raible noted that at some schools, public perception becomes so bad that no one notices improvements: "That school could have perfect scores across the board and it wouldn't matter." He said he'll present a proposal on Tuesday, and while he wouldn't tip his hand, he said it won't involve closing those schools (an option that's on the table for schools on "the list") or changing their name (a popular but largely unsuccessful strategy in years past).

Anonymous said...

Merchant was at his worst when dealing with the Mint Hill situation last year. After the final vote was made on the Rocky River boundary plan, someone in the audience groaned his displeasure, at which Mr. Merchant smugly made the comment "Well you lost, so deal with it!" What an arrogant political animal this man is! This has not been forgotten in the community and we will continue to campaign against Mr. Merchant at every opportunity.