Reassignment incites conversation about students’ individual needs
Three south Charlotte women think they could guide parents in school choice
Three south Charlotte women want area parents concerned about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ student reassignment changes to realize “it’s going to be OK.”
Dr. Suzanne Cormier, Rachel Hunt and Amanda Raymond own Charlotte School Search (CSS) LLC, a consultant company that provides personalized school searches for individual children.
The organization takes an invasive approach to matching a child with the school that best fits their needs, which Raymond said might not necessarily be a school that “looks good on paper.” They tour schools, speak with administration and follow a personalized rubric.
“For several years, we’ve had mothers come to each of us for advice about schools,” Cormier said, “because our children are older and we’ve gone through this whole process and we were very involved in trying to figure out the best schools for our children.”
They investigated consulting firms in other cities for guidance and founded their organization in April. CSS seeks to aid families who are moving to the area, families who are new to the school system or families who want to change schools. Their biggest clientele are families who moved to the area, but the three women suspect they’ll see an increase in clients after CMS establishes new district lines.
Cormier said they’ve been approached recently, as many parents worry about the unknown consequences of redistricting.
“Most of the families are concerned with past history because their child is going to be moved someplace that they can’t anticipate, so everyone is wondering where the line is going to be drawn and want to know, ‘How is that going to affect me?’” Raymond said.
Hunt said although they don’t “have a crystal ball,” the women could ease fears about student assignment.
“There are good schools in CMS in different areas – all areas of the city have good schools,” she said. “It’s not like you have to be just in the South or have to be just where you are now and there are different schools for different kids. Just because a school is highly ranked doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best school for their child.”
CSS hopes to serve as an objective consultant for parents to discover the right fit for their child, even if that means the school doesn’t rank the highest academically.
“The beauty of what they do is they just listen to their neighbors (about schools) and we don’t have dog in the fight. We don’t have children in the schools. So, we’re going to be much more objective,” Hunt said. “… We’re not emotionally invested like we were (when their kids were in school). We were just like all these parents. We know what they’re going through.”
CSS wants to guide parents not to simply listen to their neighbors’ opinions about schools, but to recognize that school selection should be based on the individual child’s needs.
“They need to grasp that it’s OK to take their child out of that top school and put them some place else because it’s the top school for your kid,” Raymond said.
CSS also pushes parents to take a detailed look at their child, including interests, academic needs and personalities when looking at the “best” school. Student reassignment might incite parents to reevaluate what their child needs in a school.
Raymond said when she moved to Charlotte 12 years ago, neighbors were protesting their Myers Park High School students being moved to South Mecklenburg High School. She believed South Meck was a lesser school, but said looking back on the situation, she realized South Meck would have been a great choice for her children if she hadn’t listened to the buzz. She hopes other parents don’t follow her same path.
“The reality is when they start moving kids around, some of the schools that parents think are not so great are going to become great,” she said. “… None of these schools are stagnant. The school that is great today may not be great in five years.”
She also reminds parents if district lines are redrawn where their child will attend a different school, she predicts they most likely won’t travel to a different end of the county to attend school.
Raymond believes communication is the key to relieve anxieties around student reassignment, particularly regarding families’ options in the school lottery system if they don’t like their home school. Moving forward, CSS encourages CMS to continue community conversations and to be transparent about the school choice process.
Cormier suggested CMS Board of Education members visit neighborhoods about the upcoming process, as they will be most vocal about assignment as a group.
“It’s not going to be the complete solution, but it’s something and they need to take it slow,” she said.
The Policy Committee has remained slow in deciding new student assignment guidelines, beginning the process in February and not expecting a decision until.
Visit www.charlotteschoolsearch.com or call 704-277-5570 for more information about CSS.
South Charlotte Weekly will investigate student reassignment and what it could mean for Charlotte through its series “Moving students, moving targets.” Look next week for information on the CMS policy committee’s objectives and plan they discussed throughout December.