October 28, 2016
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$55M Plan To Improve Charlotte's West Corridor Grad Rates Unveiled

 CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The CMS Investment Study Group, a committee of foundation and community leaders established to explore the most effective role for philanthropic giving in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), has announced today the creation of a program called Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment For Transformation). The program will seek to provide $55 million in private funding to support additional services and educational enhancements for CMS students in the West Charlotte corridor, defined as West Charlotte High School and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it.  

The group said that their plan will cost $55 million to implement over a five-year period.  The project will focus on enhanced teacher and school leadership quality, more time spent on task (including extended day, out of school time, and pre-kindergarten programs), access to technology, and policy changes that will allow school leadership more freedom.  An extensive outreach program is also planned to engage community and business leaders, faith communities and others in ensuring that students get the most out of their educational opportunities.  

The group has begun to raise the needed funds and many of the family and corporate foundations represented on the study group have indicated their intention to provide financial support to the project, for a combined $40.5 million so far.  The following organizations announced their intentional gifts:    

  • Belk Foundation

$1 million

  • Foundation For The Carolinas

$2 million

  • Wells Fargo Foundation

$2.5 million

  • Duke Energy Foundation

$5 million

  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation

$10 million

  • C.D. Spangler Foundation

$10 million

  • The Leon Levine Foundation

$10 million


$40.5 million


The fund created by the gifts will be held at Foundation For The Carolinas.

Anna Spangler Nelson of the C.D. Spangler Foundation and Richard "Stick" Williams, president of the Duke Energy Foundation, who co-chaired the group, summarized the group's findings and recommendations. "We aimed to impact the most basic measures of student achievement – the graduation rate and overall performance," said Nelson.  "Through reading and research, an intensive series of meetings with national experts, and meetings with the West Charlotte community, we have identified the actions we can take that are most likely to make a difference for this community's students."

"We believe this approach, combined with our exceptional educational leadership and strong community partnerships, will make a sustainable impact in student achievement," said Williams. "While Project L.I.F.T. will be something truly innovative and special that makes the most sense for our community, its outcomes will serve to address what is clearly a broader, national issue."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman said, "This astonishing generosity in a time of budget cuts is especially important for the schools in the West Charlotte corridor, where gains have been made recently in proficiency rates."  He added, "With the dollars that are being provided, we will put into practice measures we know will work.  This group has looked at data with a practical mindset to find the things we can do that have produced results in communities across the country."

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who participated as a member of the study group and is a West Charlotte alumnus, said, "This extraordinary gift marks yet another turning point in our community and proves that what unites us - a shared interest in the success of every child - is so much stronger than anything that divides us. We can no longer afford to allow up to half of our students to fail to complete their high school education. The achievement gap is not unique to our community but what is unique is our capacity to close it. Let Charlotte-Mecklenburg be the American community that eliminates the achievement gap." The West Charlotte corridor was chosen as the focus of the effort because of West Charlotte's graduation rate of 51%, the lowest in the CMS system.

Nelson and Williams added that the gifts announced so far are conditional, and will not be considered as final until the fundraising goal of $55 million is reached. An intensive fundraising campaign targeting other foundations is already under way.  

Project L.I.F.T. originated when representatives from The Leon Levine and C.D. Spangler Foundations met in the summer of 2010 to discuss how to make their giving to local educational causes more impactful.  Both foundations have a history of giving generously to educational causes.  With help from Foundation For The Carolinas, they formed a committee made up of 13 members representing family and corporate foundations, as well as community leaders with a passion for education.  They determined to address the system's top educational needs as defined by the community, in a series of community forums held last summer by the board of education.  

Project L.I.F.T. will move soon to appoint an executive director to oversee the work, and plans call for some of the measures to be in place in time for the start of the 2011-2012 school year, with a full rollout in 2012-2013.  While the executive director will report to the school system, a board made up of investors will provide accountability.



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