CMS, Project LIFT sign five-year agreement
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education signed a five-year agreement with a local philanthropic coalition Jan. 24 that both sides hope will lead to dramatic reform of schools on the west side of Charlotte.
The contract with Project Leadership and Investment For Transformation (L.I.F.T.) will create a new zone within CMS that will include West Charlotte High and the middle and elementary feeder schools that send students to West Charlotte High – nine schools in all. The staff for the new zone will include a zone superintendent, executive director of strategic planning and evaluation and a human resources specialist for the new zone. Staff in those positions will be CMS employees who are paid with Project L.I.F.T. funds.
The zone superintendent will be Denise Watts, a former CMS administrator and principal who joined Project L.I.F.T. as executive director in the spring. Watts will report to Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark and the Project L.I.F.T. board of directors. The project will begin in CMS in the summer.
The Board of Education voted to approve the contract with Project L.I.F.T. after hearing a comprehensive report about the project during a Board retreat the weekend of Jan. 21. Project LIFT, which is seeking to raise $55 million, is co-chaired by Anna Nelson of the C.D. Spangler Foundation and Richard “Stick” Williams of the Duke Energy Foundation.
Project L.I.F.T. will address the achievement gap in CMS by providing $55 million in private funding over five years to support additional services and enhancements for West Charlotte and its eight feeder schools. The group, founded in September 2010, has raised more than $43 million.
Project L.I.F.T. will use proven reform models and practices drawn from across the country. The project has defined its areas of focus as enhanced teacher and school leadership quality, increasing learning time beyond the regular school day, access to technology, increased parental and community involvement and policy changes to give more freedom to school leadership. Project L.I.F.T. has also outlined a broad outreach program to engage leaders and citizens on the west side in the effort to improve schools.
At the retreat, Board members hailed the public-private partnership agreement as a bold innovation that could transform some of the lowest-performing schools in CMS.
Contributors to Project L.I.F.T. include the Leon Levine Foundation, the C.D. Spangler Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Duke Energy Foundation, the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Foundation For The Carolinas and the Belk Foundation. Donations from the west side community have exceeded $350,000.