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Another Item in "Follow the Money"

Many thanks to a Maryland parent for spotting this one. Want your school to get good PR in the press? Buy McGraw-Hill products. And you might win a prize besides.


As many people have noted, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' glowing national reputation sometimes seems at odds with the controversy it sparks at home.

An item in this week's inbox provides some insight into the national scene.

"Five years after creating an aggressive plan to narrow the achievement gap and increase academic success for all students, Charlotte-Mecklenburg is celebrating its success. Is this a sign that No Child Left Behind will work in districts that take reform seriously?" asked an e-mail from Paul Werth Associates, an Ohio-based public relations firm.

"The success of Charlotte-Mecklenburg showcases education reform at its best in the age of No Child Left Behind," it continued. "It would make an excellent feature story as the school year begins."

So what gives? In these tight budget times, is CMS paying a national firm to tell its story?

Nope. Although the PR agent who sent the e-mail initially insisted CMS was just such a good story that "we" decided to share it, she eventually acknowledged her client is McGraw-Hill, the textbook publisher that has sold CMS several million dollars worth of Open Court reading materials.

The company recently hired former CMS school board Chairman Arthur Griffin as vice president for national urban markets. In 2002 McGraw-Hill gave former Superintendent Eric Smith a $25,000 prize and national recognition for his work in Charlotte, and in 2003 it sponsored a Council of Urban Boards of Education conference in Charlotte, showcasing Open Court and other academic programs.

Even after a reporter noted that the Observer has written an article or two about CMS, the PR agent gamely offered to drum up some new reading-related feature ideas.

— Notebook
Charlotte Observer


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