School board chairwoman Molly Griffin said she opposes disbanding a citizens’ panel that identifies racial disparities within Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools but wants to see the group restructured.

Speaking at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, Griffin said the panel should have a small, well-defined mandate and work jointly with the board.

“I don’t think the Equity Committee should be making academic recommendations,” she told about 40 people inside the West Charlotte Recreation Center.

Talk of disbanding the committee surfaced last month as school board members met for the second of a two-day planning retreat. Some suggested that the board, not the Equity Committee, take the lead on equity issues.

The 11-member advisory group was established in 2001 to monitor issues related to racial equity as CMS, under court order, moved away from busing to achieve racial integration back toward neighborhood schools.

The committee has produced a report each year outlining various equity concerns within CMS, often recommending solutions.

The group’s latest report, issued in January, noted that nearly 50 percent of African American students and nearly 40 percent of Latino students failed the 2007-08 state end-of-grade math tests, compared to 11 percent of white students. It recommended that all high-poverty schools receive math facilitators.

Griffin said offering recommendations was never part of the committee’s mandate. Finding solutions, she said, should be left to educators.

Responding to a question from an audience member, Griffin praised Superintendent Peter Gorman for what she described as his “innovative strategies” to close the racial achievement gap.

Since Gorman arrived three years ago, she said, low-performing elementary students are getting more reading instruction, the district is receiving more grants to train principals for low-performing schools and CMS is working on a model that would offer better pay to teachers who get results.

“The initiatives are exciting, very very promising,” she said. “And I’m very hopeful about what the results are going to be. At this point that’s how I’m measuring him.”

Griffin noted, however, that when Gorman is measured against “pure performance,” the results are “not so great.”

When asked if she favored setting a timetable for Gorman to achieve academic results, Griffin said no.

“I want to be clear that we’re making growth under Dr. Gorman,” she said. “A lot of his very innovative strategies are new this year. So I think we need to see what the results are going to be.

“I need to see continued and steady progress,” she said. “If we don’t see it then I need to see him do something radically different. But at this point in time, I see his strategies and I see his focus, and I’m hopeful. I can’t say if we don’t see growth in two years, he’s out. That’s not the way I measure it.”

Editor’s Note: Qcitymetro Publisher Glenn H. Burkins is married to Patsy Burkins, a member of the CMS Equity Committee.

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