CMS’ Morrison talks school choice, charters

by Tori Hamby

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools needs to expand high-demand magnet programs, says the school district’s leader.


CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison touted magnet schools and programs at an Oct. 4 community forum at Hopewell High School, telling community members the district plans to look at programs – such as International Baccalaureate programs in nearby schools – that the school district can afford to expand.

“We are looking at a variety of options and looking at them (while considering) quality, choice and capital projects,” Morrison said.

Many questions at the forum focused on a concern over limited educational options within CMS. The district offers IB programs at 14 schools, including Blythe Elementary, North Mecklenburg High and Alexander Middle, a STEM-focused school, four Montessori programs, a performing arts school, world language academies, a military leadership academy and learning immersion programs at six schools.

Morrison said it has been about five years since the district last opened a magnet school.

Parents said they wanted to see the district expand the number of IB program seats offered at Blythe Elementary, continuing on at Alexander Middle and North Mecklenburg High.

While CMS leadership has been looking into ways to expand school choice, Morrison said its staff also has to consider how increasing options will affect existing schools. A popular magnet program that takes students out of one school could force another to significantly reduce resources or close.

“There’s a rippling effect,” Morrison said. “(Changes you make are) going to have some kind of impact on other schools.”

He also questioned the effectiveness of charter schools – another school choice option controlled by the state, not local school districts, saying they typically fare no better than traditional schools.

He said the recent flurry of charter school openings could affect whether the district chooses to build more schools or magnet programs.

“If three charter schools open (near a school that needs renovations), we would have to ask ‘should we wait?’” Morrison said.

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