The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (UI) will now help with the research portion of CMS’s search for a new superintendent.

The UI, a public policy research center whose offices are in Colvard South, will be putting together online surveys to help CMS understand the traits and characteristics that people are looking for in a new superintendent. According to Jeff Michael, UI’s director, that means hearing from people who have no connection to CMS as well as hearing from parents, students, teachers and staff.

The surveys will be made available separately, although they will contain the same questions. The first round of surveys, to be made available in late October 2011, will be a targeted round of surveys that will be sent through e-bulletins to those who have a stake in CMS, such as those who are employed by the system or have a child attending one of the schools. “We will be encouraging those people that are targeted to take part in the survey because they are involved with CMS,” said Michael.

The second survey will be made available to the general public in November, 2011. It will be kept open for two weeks and include anyone who wants to have their opinion put into consideration. “Of course, the general public includes people who are involved with CMS,” said Michael. “And some of those people will choose to participate this way, but everyone will have a say at some point.”

The UI will be compiling results in terms of demographic profiles depending on where they live, their connection to CMS, race, age, income and other characteristics. “This will be provide the CMS board with a good representative look at what people are looking for in the next superintendent,” said Michael.

Michael is hoping to have the preliminary results ready in the form of a PowerPoint presentation by the time the board is holding public forums in late November, 2011. “The results will be more polished in December, but this presentation should be able to do a good job of informing those forums,” said Michael.

These forums were the starting point for UNC Charlotte’s involvement with CMS’s search for a superintendent. CMS board member Richard McElrath approached UNC Charlotte professor Roslyn Mickelson, someone he has worked with on educational issues for years, several weeks ago asking if she and others from UNC Charlotte could help organize community forums in which the public could give feedback. According to Mickelson, as she attempted to make that happen she learned that Chancellor Philip Dubois had already told CMS board chairman Eric Davis that UNC Charlotte would not be able to run the forums.

A Charlotte Observer article reported that the talks about helping with public feedback broke down due to a misunderstanding about the costs. The article stated that McElrath was hoping to get free aid from the university but talks with the chancellor and the UI proved that this would not be the case. A similar study that was done for the public library by the UI cost the library $225,000.

Michael said that timing was the reason UI would not be able to help with the public forums. “We, led by Beth Hardin, UNC Charlotte Vice President of Business Affairs, all acknowledged that with the very tight time frame that they were under, we just did not have the capacity to help put on those public forums,” he said.

“It is the type of work that we do on topics and issues like this,” said Michael. “In addition to our research, we often do facilitate public forums, but in this tight timeline we just didn’t feel we could do that.”

As for now, Michael and the rest of UI are focused on developing a public marketing strategy to get the word out about their surveys being available online. The UI will be looking to partner with a number of agencies in town that have an interest in this issue. These agencies will include the Charlotte Chamber, a non-profit organization made up of Charlotte business leaders, and Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education (Meck Ed), another area non-profit organization dedicated to helping CMS students be successful.

Michael, the father of a first grade student in the CMS system, also hopes to use press releases, newspaper articles and hopefully an op-ed article to help get the word out about the survey so that the broadest sample possible can be utilized to help inform the public forums that CMS are still aiming to hold in November, 2011.

Mickelson will still be among the attendees at the forums. “I still have a good relationship with McElrath and I very much look forward to participating in the forums as a guest rather than as an organizer,” she said.