Monday, June 27, 2011

Projections soared during race for NASCAR Hall

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority officials rejected early, more modest attendance projections for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as competition to host the facility intensified between Charlotte, Atlanta and Daytona.

"It is not clear what, if any, due diligence was conducted in support of these upward revisions," concluded a report released today from a consultant who studied the authority.

Click here to read the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report.

The report said it is possible that the hall's failure to hit its projected first-year attendance of 800,000 - 274,000 visited in its first year - resulted from the weak economy.

But the CRVA chief executive and its board of directors should have clearly identified the potential lack of supporting evidence for the projections at the tax-supported project, the report said.

- Doug Miller

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CMS: Middle school sports are back

Here's the memo CMS officials sent to principals and board members today announcing that middle school sports won't vanish next year, as originally planned.


TO:                 All Middle School Principals
THRU:            Hugh Hattabaugh, Chief Operating Officer
                        Sue Doran, Interim Athletic Director

FROM:           LaTarzja Henry, Executive Director, Communications

DATE:            June 23, 2011

RE:                 Update on Middle School Athletics

ACTION:       Communicate middle school sports changes

Funding for middle school athletics was cut from the 2010-2011 budget. However, we were able to fund it in 2010-2011 using high school and middle school participation fees, a $1 surcharge on high school ticket sales and community donations. In the spring, it again appeared that middle school athletics would be eliminated because a portion of the participation fees in high schools were needed to pay for high school sports. This did not leave enough money to fully fund middle school sports.

Since then, the district has identified a way to fund selected middle school sports for the 2011-2012 school year. We will share our plans with the CMS community on Wednesday, June 29. The hybrid model offerings are:

o        Fall Season 2011:
§         Boys football
§         Girls cheerleading
§         Girls volleyball
o       Winter Season 2011-2012:
§         Boys basketball
§         Girls basketball
§         Girls cheerleading
o       Spring Season 2012:
§         Boys track & field
§         Girls track & field
These sports were selected based on high participation in recent years. They also meet Title IX requirements. For the 2011-2012 school year, softball, baseball, soccer and golf will not be offered. In order to ensure that principals and executive staff are informed, attached to this memo you will find:

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Please share this document with your athletic directors.

  • Sample Parent Letter from Principal: This letter may be tailored and distributed by principals to alert parents to the changes with back-to-school communications materials. Parents should not be informed of this change until the announcement is made on June 29.

  • Sample ConnectED Message: Principals are responsible for sending a ConnectED message at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29. A sample ConnectED message is attached.

In addition, principals need to:

·        Hire athletic directors and coaches, who are generally 10-month teachers receiving stipends but may also be non-faculty members receiving stipends only
·        Update the school website no later than July 14 to list only the sports to be offered 
·        Send a ConnectED message to families at 7 p.m. on June 29
·        Include a parent letter detailing changes to athletics in back-to-school communications material
This information will be released to the public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29.

Thank you.

c:                      Executive staff

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CMS: Two weeks to transfer

The latest twist in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools job shakeup is a new chance for employees to seek available positions starting Friday. According to a memo sent today, openings will trickle out throughout June, as CMS figures out what jobs will survive in the 2011-12 budget. District leaders planned for about 1,500 jobs to be cut and notified hundreds of people that their jobs could disappear, but then restored many of them after county commissioners bumped up the budget last week.

Here's the update:

From: cmscommunications
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:07 AM
To: cmsmailall
Subject: Transfer Opportunities

As of Friday, June 17, CMS employees will have an opportunity to apply for new positions throughout the district when we begin to post available positions and accept applications.

This opportunity is different from earlier years. The application process is not a general transfer fair. There are new procedures for applying for a position, and we will share details about the procedures later this week. One important change: Not all available jobs will be posted at once. Some will be posted on Friday, and daily updates of the postings will follow.

As part of the posting process, employees will be given priority in application but not necessarily in hiring decisions. We will give employees the opportunity to apply first for these jobs, and then we will choose the strongest candidates to fill them.

The decision to begin posting jobs was made following the announcement that Mecklenburg County would give CMS $26 million more than the district originally expected. The $26 million will cover two items in Tier 4 of the proposed cuts, and will provide partial funding for a third item.

The $26 million will cover the funding needed to keep our weighted student staffing formula at the current level, and to keep class sizes at current levels. Those two items add up to about $24 million. The remaining $2 million will be applied toward the $11 million needed to avoid cutting one support position at each school.  

The status of funds to cover the proposed cuts in Bright Beginnings classes and teacher assistant positions has not been determined because we do not have the final state budget numbers. When we get that information,  we will share it.

The application process is scheduled to close on June 30. If you are interested in applying for a job in one of the postings, please be sure to check your  CMS email regularly throughout the rest of June for updates and more information.

Thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

CMS: Who's saved, who's not

Even before Superintendent Peter Gorman dropped his bombshell, Wednesday's special school board meeting had reporters in turmoil, trying to figure out exactly what the "no layoffs" announcement meant. Normally the public relations staff would have been all over that, but the news that the boss is leaving does tend to divert time and energy.

Plenty of people have been trying to parse out exactly what the county's extra $26 million means for schools. Here's an explanation sent this afternoon. -- Ann Doss Helms
                                                                                      MEDIA RELEASE

County funding will avoid some layoffs at CMS, but not all

            CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 10, 2011 – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be able to keep 570 educators, including 406 classroom teachers, because of an additional $26 million in county funding. However, district officials cautioned that layoffs may still be needed, depending on the final state budget.

The $26 million will be applied to three items in Tier 4 of the district’s proposed budget, which included about $101 million in proposed cuts. The items included teachers related to weighted student staffing, class size and instructional support staff in schools. By design, the fourth tier includes the reductions most likely to affect student achievement. District leadership told the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners during budget talks in June that any additional funding would be applied to Tier 4, starting at the bottom of the tier and working up.

“We will use the $26 million just as we told the county that we would,” said Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh. “The $26 million will mean we don’t have to increase class sizes and we don’t have to change our weighted-student staffing formula. Together those two items add up to $24 million – and we’ll apply the remaining $2 million to the next item in the tier, which is support staff in schools.”

The remaining items in Tier 4 that the county money did not cover are a reduction of 328 teacher assistants and a reduction in the number of Bright Beginnings classes offered by CMS.

“We do not know whether we will have to make the additional reductions in Tier 4 yet,” Hattabaugh said. “It will depend on the state funding and we won’t know that until the state budget is final.”

District officials expect to have final state numbers by the end of June. The state budget appears likely to be resolved sooner than it has been in earlier years, so CMS could have those numbers earlier than usual.

The district’s proposed budget included eliminating 1,687 positions. The county funding has allowed the district to preserve 406 teacher positions and some support staff. If funding allows the district to keep its current number of Bright Beginnings pre-kindergarten classes with associated staffing and the 328 teacher assistants scheduled for reduction in Tier 4, that would bring the number of positions cut to about 600, Hattabaugh said. Final numbers won’t be available until the state funding is certain, which will be later in the summer.

The district has decided to close the pre-kindergarten centers where Bright Beginnings has been offered. If Bright Beginnings is not cut, then the classes will move to other district schools, he said. Teachers will not lose their jobs if that occurs, but other school staff may.

“While we’re relieved not to have to cut more teachers, we’ve still had to cut hundreds of positions from the budget,” Hattabaugh said. “We have had a reduction in force for the past three years and that has meant some very effective district employees have lost their jobs.”


Read Jones' letter, CHS's response

A potentially damaging rift between Mecklenburg County and its largest hospital system has just grown wider.

Claiming Carolinas HealthCare System has breached its contract, Mecklenburg Manager Harry Jones said in a letter to hospital system CEO Michael Tarwater that the county will halt its payments to the multi-billion-dollar hospital system until it provides requested data. Read the Jones letter by clicking here

But CHS officials say they have not breached the agreement - and are disappointed that the county appears to be throwing its longstanding relationship with the hospital system "to the curb." Click here to read a statement from the hospital -- AMES ALEXANDER AND APRIL BETHEA

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Davis: "An opportunity to build upon our current success"

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Chair Eric Davis said the search for a new superintendent to succeed Peter Gorman will be "an opportunity to build upon our current success towards a better future."

In a message to CMS employees, Davis said the school board will meet June 15 to start the process for naming an interim leader and to discuss how they'll find a new superintendent. Read the full message below.

"We will find an interim superintendent and then begin the search for our next superintendent. I am proud of the progress our students have made because of your efforts the past five years," Davis wrote. "I also believe that we have much more to do. I am confident that all of us – teachers, support staff, executive staff, other district employees and Board members – will continue to work toward our shared vision of academic achievement for all CMS students."

From: cmscommunications
Date: June 8, 2011 5:32:13 PM EDT
To: cmsmailall
Subject: A message from Eric Davis

Dear CMS teammates,

Superintendent Peter C. Gorman announced his resignation during a Board meeting earlier today. In addition to the change in our district because of the financial downturn, we now face a change of leadership with Dr. Gorman’s departure. I see this as an opportunity to build upon our current success towards a better future.

We will find an interim superintendent and then begin the search for our next superintendent. I am proud of the progress our students have made because of your efforts the past five years. I also believe that we have much more to do. I am confident that all of us – teachers, support staff, executive staff, other district employees and Board members – will continue to work toward our shared vision of academic achievement for all CMS students.

I know that we will succeed, despite the change in leadership, because our school district has so many tremendous assets that are enduring. We have teachers who are dedicated and hardworking. We have principals who are strong, high-performing leaders. We have parents who are committed to CMS and passionate about their children’s education. We have an executive staff with great expertise and knowledge. These are the assets that will help us meet whatever challenges lie ahead.

Like any public school district, CMS is a collective effort. CMS succeeds because of its broad, diverse base of participants and support – students, parents, teachers, principals, leaders and the community. The Board of Education will tap into that commitment to help us find the right leader to succeed Dr. Gorman. The Board leadership is committed to thoughtful, informed and inclusive community discussion about our schools, to include our CMS staff, and we will take the time needed to be sure those conversations take place.

All of us on the Board remain committed to the CMS mission to maximize achievement for every student in every school. We have great faith in you, the employees of the district and we admire the steadfast service you have given our students, particularly during the recent hard times. We know that our teachers are the reason for our academic success and we commit to engage and collaborate with you as we chart our future. We know that our principals are the frontline leaders, the backbone of our district and the force that holds our schools together. We know that our executive staff will provide steady, reassuring leadership during this time of transition.

The Board of Education will meet June 15 to begin the process of choosing an interim superintendent and to shape how we will select the next superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Eric C. Davis
Chairperson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

News Corp: CMS' Gorman to join education division

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman this afternoon announced his resignation effective Aug. 15. Gorman will become the senior vice president of the education division of News Corp. in New York.

According to a news release -- which you can read in its entirety below -- Gorman will "work with school districts to implement the division’s programs, as well as review their integrity and effectiveness." The education division is led by Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

“I’m thrilled to join News Corporation, and to work with someone of Joel’s caliber, and the rest of his team, to transform the educational system through digital technology and other means,” Gorman says in the release. “News Corporation has a reputation for leading significant change across many industries, and I look forward to what lies ahead for the education sector.” -- APRIL BETHEA


News Corporation Makes Key Management Appointments
to its Education Division

Former Chief Operating Officer, New York City Department of Education, Kristen Kane named COO; Former Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Dr. Peter Gorman named Senior Vice President

NEW YORK, NY, June 8, 2011 – News Corporation today announced that Kristen Kane, former Chief Operating Officer, New York City Department of Education and Dr. Peter Gorman, former Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will take on leadership roles at its newly formed Education Division.

Ms. Kane will become Chief Operating Officer of the group, responsible for driving operations and strategy. Dr. Gorman will be named Senior Vice President and work with school districts to implement the division’s programs, as well as review their integrity and effectiveness.

News Corporation’s Education Division is focused on individualized, technology-based content and learning opportunities that support world class student and teacher performance, as well as digital assessment tools for K-12 students in the United States that help eliminate the achievement gap. News Corporation recently acquired Brooklyn-based education technology company, Wireless Generation.

“Pete and Kristen are recognized leaders in their field and each brings particular strengths to bear on our growing business,” said Joel Klein, CEO of News Corporation’s Education Division. “Pete’s success running one of the largest schools systems in the United States, combined with his commitment to educational innovation are the perfect complement to our mission. Furthermore, Kristen’s proven leadership in shaping and running many of the New York City Department of Education’s best programs will benefit us greatly over the years to come.”

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Joel and his team in this capacity,” said Ms. Kane. “I strongly believe there are more efficient and effective ways to improve the system, and I’m eager to get started.”

“I’m thrilled to join News Corporation, and to work with someone of Joel’s caliber, and the rest of his team, to transform the educational system through digital technology and other means,” said Dr. Gorman. “News Corporation has a reputation for leading significant change across many industries, and I look forward to what lies ahead for the education sector.”

Ms. Kane brings a range of experience in both the public and private sectors. At the New York City Department of Education, she served as Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for the development and implementation of the Bloomberg administration’s reform strategy as well as oversight of daily operations.

She also served as Chief Executive of the Office of New Schools, which opened 178 new schools and charters in New York City under her leadership. At the Federal Communications Commission, she served as a Director of the National Broadband Plan developing strategies for applying broadband technologies in the education, healthcare, and energy sectors. Earlier in her career, Kristen worked in equity research at JPMorgan covering the education sector. She holds an MBA and Certificate in Public Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA from Yale.

As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent for the past five years, Dr. Gorman led one of the nation’s largest school districts with more than 138,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students, 17,700 staff members and a budget of more than $1.15 billion. This year, the school district has been selected as one of four finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. Dr. Gorman has also served as Superintendent of the Tustin (CA) Unified School District and as both Chief Information Officer and Chief Operating Officer/Business and Finance of the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Central Florida and an MBA from Rollins College.

News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) had total assets as of March 31, 2011 of approximately US$60 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$33 billion. News Corporation is a diversified global media company with operations in six industry segments: cable network programming; filmed entertainment; television; direct broadcast satellite television; publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gorman: Trying to avoid layoff angst

Superintendent Peter Gorman emailed Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees today to explain why a layoff vote has been delayed two days, to a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Government Center (it's open to the public).

If county commissioners approve an additional $26 million, as expected, the job cuts won't be as drastic as what Gorman and the board have been talking about. "We don’t want to notify employees that they are losing their jobs, then have to rescind that," Gorman writes. "We don’t want to put our employees through any more anxiety than is necessary and we’re glad our Board is deferring this vote."

Here's the whole memo:
From: "Peter C. Gorman" <>
Date: June 6, 2011 4:48:19 PM EDT
To: cmsmailall <>
Subject: Budget update
Dear CMS employees,
As we move closer to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners’ vote on county funding for CMS, the situation continues to be very fluid. The county commissioners will vote tomorrow on our funding and this has led to a change in our schedule.
Our Board of Education was scheduled to vote tonight on the reduction in force, giving us the authority to move forward on it. But last week’s straw votes by the Board of County Commissioners suggest that we may get an additional $26 million over what we originally planned.
We don’t want to notify employees that they are losing their jobs, then have to rescind that. So instead of voting for the reduction in force at its meeting today, our Board will defer the vote on the reduction in force until Wednesday. By then, we expect to know for certain what our county funding will be.
We don’t want to put our employees through any more anxiety than is necessary and we’re glad our Board is deferring this vote. The past three years have been so difficult for all CMS employees, our students and their families -- and this year in particular has been hard because we’re closing some schools. So it seems wise to wait and see what our county funding will be. Our Board will meet in a special open session at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The county vote will resolve some of the uncertainty for all of us. We are still waiting on a budget from the state, of course, so we don’t know our full budget yet. But we are hoping that we’ll get some good news from the county tomorrow night.
We’ll continue to keep you posted as events occur.
Peter C. Gorman
Government Center
600 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
980-343-6270 -- phone
980-343-7135 -- fax

Friday, June 3, 2011

Read the indictment against John Edwards

 The indictment is the culmination of a secretive federal probe that has been going on for more than two years. The investigation has centered on allegations that donations to John Edwards were used to support Rielle Hunter, his former mistress and mother of his now-3-year-old daughter.



Pending Counts: Conspiracy, False Statements

Highest Offense Level: Felony

Read the indictment

Read the arrest warrant

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

GOP plan cuts tax rate, sends more to CMS

Mecklenburg's four Republican county commissioners rolled out a plan late Tuesday evening to cut spending far enough to lower the property tax rate by five cents. Read the proposal below

The proposal from commissioners Karen Bentley, Neil Cooksey, Bill James and Jim Pendergraph came hours before the county board is set to begin taking tentative votes on the 2011-12 budget. Bentley emailed the plan to the Observer late Tuesday.

The plan includes some $55.9 million in proposed cuts, but also would send an additional $15.4 million to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. That could help the district save 260 teaching positions.

Republican commissioners have long said they would not support a budget with a tax rate higher than the so-called revenue-neutral levy. That would let the county raise about the same amount of money through property taxes next year. The GOP proposal sets the tax rate at 78.45 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is just below the neutral level. -- APRIL BETHEA


GOP Propose ‘Revenue Negative’ Rate

Right –sized budget cuts tax rate 5.42 cents

Charlotte, NC (5-31-2011) – The Republican Caucus of the Mecklenburg Countybelow the ‘revenue neutral’ rate of 78.83 set by law. Here is a summary of the various proposed budgets: Board of Commissioners is proposing a budget that helps fund CMS teacher positions during the Great Recession while reducing the tax rate 5.42 cents below the current rate and lowering the burden of revaluation. The Republican Commissioners “revenue negative” rate can be achieved with right-sized budget cuts. The GOP budget increases funding for CMS $15,401,620 from the FY2011 budget to fund 260 high priority teaching positions while decreasing the Manager’s Budget overall by $43,523,119. The resulting tax rate is

  • Prior Year (2011) County Budget 83.87 tax rate $ 954,844,690
  • Manager’s Proposed (2012) Budget 82.49 tax rate Incr of $77,323,005 $1,032,167,695
  • Cogdell’s Proposed (2012) Budget 82.97 tax rate Incr of $75,997,406 $1,030,942,096
  • GOP’s Proposed (2012) Budget 78.45 tax rate Incr of $33,799,886 $ 988,644,576

So, how does this proposal balance the Mecklenburg County Budget, cut costs and increase funding to schools, while at the same time achieving a revenue negative tax rate? Here’s a summary:

  • Manager’s Proposed Budget (without CMS increase) $1,006,078,584
  • Increase in staff estimate for Sales Tax $ 3,000,000
  • Increase for CMS $ 15,401,620
  • Increase for DV and Sheriff $ 145,000
  • Decreases in other areas (see below) ($ 55,924,844)
  • GOP Proposed Budget $ 988,644,576

Highlights of the cost savings from the Manager’s proposed budget are as follows (speadsheet details to follow shortly):

  • Decrease funding for DSS as proposed by Commissioner Codgell, $2,000,000
  • Reduce proposed increase for OPEB’s (from $8 million), $2,500,000
  • Reduce proposed increase for employee 401k matches, $2,500,000
  • Reduce County funding for ‘retiree’ health costs, $2,350,000
  • Reduce “pay for performance” (raises) by ½, $2,100,000
  • Reduce proposed increase in “Capital Reserve,” $2,350,000
  • Reduce “CMC healthcare Contract,” $1,499,016
  • Reduce proposed increase for “Libraries,” $1,000,000
  • Reduce ”Substance Abuse” prohibiting taxpayer funding of multiple detox/yr, $3,000,000
  • Eliminate funding for new Outside Agencies (approx. total), $ 1,220,949
  • Eliminate proposed increase in Public Assistance, $2,656,839
  • Reduce proposed increase in County Training budget, $550,000
  • Reduce proposed increase in Technology Reserve, $500,000
  • Eliminate proposed increase in “Homeless Support Services,"$426,936

Items in red are those proposed by Commissioner Cogdell at varying amounts (except the first which the GOP and Commissioner Cogdell agree on – a cut of $2 million to DSS).